Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

December 29, 2012

Newsmakers: Luedtke tragedy still a mystery

FRANKFORT — Editor's Note: Part of a series of stories about people, places and events that made news in the Grand Traverse region in 2012.

Benzie County's most compelling mystery in recent years isn't much closer to being solved.

More than a year has passed since authorities found Chris Luedtke, 52, his wife Linda, 45, and their son, Christopher, 17, dead in the charred rubble of their home off Pautz Road near Frankfort.

The Nov. 16, 2011 fire that leveled the home was deemed arson, and investigators said Christopher died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Benzie County Sheriff Rory Heckman said final autopsy reports, received in November, list Chris and Linda's cause of death as undetermined. That's because of fire damage, Heckman said.

"With the conditions of what we had there, it's not surprising," he said. "Obviously, you'd like answers, but when you don't get them, you have to move on."

Christopher's remains were in better condition, Heckman said, so a pathologist was able to determine a cause of death.

A handgun was found near Linda's body, which led to much talk of a murder-suicide. Heckman said that scenario is possible, but there's not enough evidence to say it happened for sure.

Investigators continue to probe the incident, though Heckman acknowledged it may be impossible to provide solid answers.

"There are a lot of conclusions that can be drawn, but will we ever be able to say 100 percent for sure what happened?" he said. "Probably not."

Of particular interest to detectives is whether or not someone outside the immediate family was involved in the incident. If someone was, they need to be tracked down.

"We're still working on that angle," Heckman said.

Answers would be a good thing for the community.

"It would probably help the community feel safer, knowing what happened," said Sheena Weber, a waitress at Villa Marine Bar in downtown Frankfort.

Darlene Morden, who lives on Pautz Road with her husband Larry, said the case is still "on everybody's mind."

"We hope they solve it for everyone, especially the families," she said. "It must be so hard on them."

Anyone with information about the case can contact the Benzie sheriff's department at (231) 882-4494.

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