IRON RIVER -- This Bayfield County community was reeling Sunday on news that a well-known and well-liked elderly couple had been killed in a violent attack in their apartment the previous evening, allegedly carried out by one of their grown children.
Officials identified the victims as Jim Crain, 79, and Eunice "Crickett" Crain, 76, and identified the suspect as one of the Crains' sons.
"This is a shock for everyone here in town. Everyone absolutely loved the couple that was murdered," said Julie Zolondek of Iron River, who knew the victims from their mutual involvement in the Trails North ATV Club. "They were two of the sweetest people. They always had smiles on their faces."
"They were very loving and well-respected in the community," said friend and neighbor Donna Olson. "This was a complete shock, so we are all trying to figure out what the heck happened."
Authorities said Bayfield County sheriff's deputies responded about 6:15 p.m. Saturday to a 911 call reporting an altercation in progress at the apartment on North George Street in Iron River, a town of about 1,000 people about 40 miles southeast of Duluth.
Responding deputies found the Crains dead in the home. Officials said their 44-year-old son was found injured in the residence, and deputies arrested him at the scene. He was transported to a Duluth hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and is being held under guard. The News Tribune generally does not name suspects until they have been formally charged. As with all suspects, the man being held is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Authorities said they are not seeking any other suspects. Local and state investigators are working the case, and autopsies will be conducted by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office in Minneapolis.
Officials did not disclose the nature of the victims' injuries. The Crains' landlord, Eric Olson, said the scene in the apartment indicated a violent attack.
"There was blood on the ceilings, all over the walls, and in the bathroom," he said. "It was gruesome murder scene. It's something you see in a horror movie."
Donna Olson said the suspect "was big trouble, even as a small child. He was a real pain in the neck."
Eric Olson, who also owns the Battle Axe Saloon in town, knew the victims and the suspect. He described the relationship between the Crains and their son as toxic, and said the suspect "had a lot of issues ... and he knew how to push people's buttons."
A check of Wisconsin online court records shows a fairly extensive legal history for the suspect, including no-contest pleas for disorderly conduct in 2011, 2007 and 2003; a guilty plea for bail jumping in 2008; a no-contest plea to knowingly violating a domestic abuse restraining order in 2004; a no-contest plea to operating while intoxicated in 2002; and a no-contest plea to intentionally mistreating animals in 2000.
The online court records indicate that multiple restraining orders were issued against the suspect between 2003 and 2012.
"I remember my last conversation with Jim," Eric Olson said Sunday. "I told him I don't feel comfortable with (his son) staying at their apartment."
"The sweetest couple"
The news of the Crains' deaths -- and the shock -- spread quickly on Saturday night.
"I heard (the news) about 9:30. Our trail manager called me up and asked me if I heard anything and I went past there. All of Bayfield County was sitting over at the apartment," Zolondek said. "I live four doors down and it's too close to home, especially when you know all the parties involved."
Zolondek said Jim Crain was disabled, and on oxygen.
"For what happened, neither of them stood a chance," she said.
Jeanne Hultman, another member of the Trails North ATV Club, fought back tears Sunday as she talked about the Crains.
"This is going to be hard for everyone in the club," Hultman said. "It's so disheartening. They were just the sweetest couple."
Jim Crain was going to celebrate his birthday this Friday, she said. The ATV club, friends, and family members had a surprise planned for him.
"We were going to throw them a surprise birthday party this weekend." Hultman said. "Unfortunately, I think we will have a memorial instead."
News Tribune staffers Robin Washington and Andrew Krueger contributed to this report.