By JAMES MacPHERSON and GRETCHEN EHLKE Associated Press
BISMARCK (AP) — Volunteers were organizing in North Dakota on Wednesday to finish the harvest of a farmer found dead in his wheat field along with three other men in what investigators described as a murder-suicide.
Douglas Dulmage, 56, was shot in his combine while harvesting wheat in his field south of Cando, said Pat Traynor, a close friend. Authorities said the other three men — Justin Bracken, 34; Richard Bracken, 64; and Robert Bracken, 59 — had all been working the harvest with Dulmage.
A .357-caliber revolver was found near one of the bodies by deputies who responded to a report of four unresponsive people in the wheat field Monday evening. Officials haven't said who they think pulled the trigger or detailed any other circumstances surrounding the case. Towner County Sheriff Andrew Hillier said investigators are waiting for autopsy results.
Traynor said Dulmage owned the property. The other three men are related and lived in the area, the sheriff's office said.
Traynor said Dulmage lived with his wife and two daughters in Leeds, but farmed with his 95-year-old father at their acreage outside of town. He said farmers in the area and friends of the Dulmage family have already held one meeting on how they will handle the work of harvesting the wheat, corn and soybeans.
The deaths are a blow to the farming community during a time that is usually a lead-up to celebrating harvest, the head of a North Dakota agriculture group said.
"It's hard to grasp and understand why something like this can happen in rural North Dakota," the state's Farm Bureau President Daryl Lies said. Lies said Dulmage had served as president of the Benson County Farm Bureau.
Traynor said the Dulmage family is "living a complete nightmare."
"Doug was a pillar in the community. He was a quiet servant leader. His actions spoke volumes about his tremendous strength of character," he said. Traynor said his friend was also a volunteer firefighter and community leader in Leeds.
"Doug lived God, faith and family by his actions and not just his words," he said. "He was a role model for all of us. We should be more like him," he said.
Emily Stoll, 82, a neighbor of the Dulmage family in Leeds, a town of about 500, described Doug Dulmage as a kind and helpful neighbor.
"When he sprayed his yard for mosquitoes he'd spray mine too," she said.
Cando is 118 miles west of Grand Forks and 40 miles south of the Canadian border.
Ehlke reported from suburban Milwaukee. Researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.