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Slain Towner County farmworker was expecting first child

34-year-old Justin Bracken's fiance was 12 weeks pregnant with his first child.

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Justin Bracken with his fiance Paige Dykstra.
Submitted Photo
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LEEDS, N.D. — Funeral services were held Tuesday, Sept. 6, for two of the four men killed in a triple-murder and suicide on a Towner County farm last week .

Richard Bracken, 64, and his nephew, 34-year-old Justin Bracken, were laid to rest at Leeds Lutheran Church.

"Justin was a wonderful man, a lot of people know that, but I want everyone to know," said his fiancee, Paige Dykstra.

Instead of wedding planning with her future husband, she had to help plan her fiance's funeral.

"Hard worker, great man, loving father, loving son, just all around great person, would help anyone out if they had asked," is how Dykstra wants her fiance remembered.

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Justin Bracken, along with his dad Robert Bracken and uncle Richard Bracken, were found dead in a farm field last week.

They worked for Doug Dulmage, who was also found dead in the field.

They were in the middle of harvesting Dulmage's wheat crop at the time of the triple-murder and suicide.

Police say they have an idea of what happened and who fired the gun but are waiting for official autopsy reports to release that information.

"He didn't deserve that, none of the guys out there deserved how brutal that was," Dykstra said.

She and her 11-year-old son discovered the bodies with Doug Dulmage's parents as they went to deliver supper.

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"I am more concerned about my son right now than myself, because no one should ever have to see that, especially a little 11-year-old that idolized Justin," Dykstra said.

Adding to the pain, Dykstra is 12 weeks pregnant. Justin Bracken will never get to meet his first child.

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"I haven't really grasped that one yet; it's a little hard to swallow on that one. I cant think of it. I just have to take it as it comes," Dykstra said.

She says one of the best things that has come from this "sad situation" has been the community support, from meal train to area farmers harvesting hundreds of acres of wheat and beans Justin Bracken could no longer harvest, along with the hundreds of acres left behind by Doug Dulmage.

"That means a lot; they could take their own fields and do that and wait for ours ... and they came out to help us," Dykstra said.

Justin Bracken worked for Dulmage for more than 15 years, and Dulmage helped provide him land to farm.

Dykstra is trying to figure out how to move on without the love of her life, thinking about all the things they never said to each other or things they never did together.

"I don't think any of us will ever really know why this happened — it was just evil had taken someone over," she said.

A GoFundMe for Dykstra and her children has been started by a friend and can be found at www.gofundme.com/f/raise-funds-for-a-tragic-loss.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at mhenson@wday.com and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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