Horrific family killings rattle Clackamas County community

Items of remembrance and grief left at the scene Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 of where Clackamas County deputies say a man killed four people, including his 9-month-old daughter, Saturday night. (KATU Photo)

A Clackamas County community remained heartbroken Monday after a quadruple murder inside a home just east of Woodburn on Saturday night.

Responding deputies and those who live nearby continued to struggle with the killings.

Police were still at the scene Monday, investigating the killings that happened on South Barlow Road near Schneider Road.

Deputies said Mark Gago killed four people. Two of those people, Jerry and Pam Bremer, lived on Barlow Road for decades and grew up in the area. Also killed, were 9-month-old Olivia Gago, the suspect’s baby daughter, and 31-year-old Shaina Sweitzer, who was Gago’s girlfriend and mother of Olivia. The Bremers were Gago’s stepfather and mother.

On Monday, investigators let family and friends of the victims come by to pick up their things from the house.

People came by and wrote notes, expressing their grief and love for the four people who were killed at the home.

Deputies said when they got to the house Saturday night, they found a woman’s body lying outside. Inside, they heard a scream, and when they entered the house they said Gago was about to kill an 8-year-old girl. They shot and killed Gago before he could do that.

People who live nearby said they have so many questions. They’re grieving over the loss of their long-time neighbors and trying to make sense of why they say Gago killed his young daughter.

“It’s just incredibly difficult to understand how somebody could kill a 9-month-old baby -- his own daughter. Just really tough,” said Susan Hammond.

A witness told KATU News Gago had an ax, but deputies haven’t said if the weapon was used in the murders of all four people.

Six deputies were placed on paid administrative leave because Gago was shot and killed by at least one deputy.

Given the scope of the investigation, the tragedy is impacting many deputies.

“Deputies try to care for, on something like that, to be able to know how few people need to be able to walk into something like that to be able to protect them, so they can hold that burden so others don’t have to,” said Mike Vermace, the chaplain with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

He expects the deputies who dealt with this case to reach out to him for months to come.

“Sometimes our eyes can see what our heart and soul cannot comprehend, and so that is one of those pieces that can take place,” he said.

Vermace said it may help that so many deputies responded to the call. That way they know they’re not alone in dealing with the grief.

“That vicarious trauma that can happen for us that can hear it, but for those that stumble upon scenes that make no sense, and that can pretty horrific,” he said.

911 dispatchers also struggled to understand what happened. Dispatchers were on the phone for at least 30 minutes. They could hear the violence that was going on inside the house. Now, the county is working to help them deal with one of the worst parts of their job. Dispatch has its own counseling services.

On Monday evening, the two survivors of the attack released statements.

Tracey Burbank, the roommate who escaped and ran to the neighbor who called 911 said in part: "I appreciate all the support I have received in the last few days. I ask that you please respect my privacy while I look for a way to move on with my life. ... Please allow me the time and space to heal and move forward."

And from the family of 8-year-old Hailey Grimm: "We want to thank the public for the out pouring of love and support you have shown for Hailey. Your thoughts and kind words have been a great comfort to her. We are now, turning our focus to Hailey's care and treatment."

The girl is the daughter of victim Shaina Sweitzer from a prior relationship.

911 dispatchers heard most of what happened. The county is working to help them deal with one of the worst parts of their job:

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