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Wednesday, November 24, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Writings Studied In Murder-Suicide -- Bible References To Family Deaths

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Thurston County sheriff's investigators said they found writings with biblical references to the death of family members in the house where a family of four died Monday in an apparent murder-suicide.

"These made some references to biblical scriptures, as well as a possible interest in the eventual demise of family members," the Thurston County Sheriff's Office said in a news release. "This information is being assessed along with information from family members and friends in order to attempt to establish a motive for these killings."

Police, responding to a call from a family friend, found the bodies of Dawn Briggs, 27, and her two children, Deonna, 7, and Jesse, 10, in the master bedroom of the family's Rochester-area home.

Police also found Thomas Briggs, 33, Dawn's husband and the children's father, with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was not conscious when police arrived and died shortly after.

Police said there was no apparent trauma to the children and their mother and that the Coroner's Office will be conducting toxicology tests to determine whether they were poisoned. Results will be available in two weeks, said Thurston County sheriff's Detective Lt. Brad Watkins.

The Sheriff's Office said it also found the bodies of the family's pets - two cats and three guinea pigs.

A neighbor, Shane Speas, a retired logger, described Thomas Briggs as "superparanoid" and said Briggs "thought people were in his attic and crawling under his house."

Briggs thought people were always watching him, said Matt June, the friend who called authorities. He also was worried about the impending turn of the millennium, June said.

June had been helping Briggs pack to leave the country for an undisclosed location, he said. Then Briggs called Monday and asked him to come over because something had happened to his family. June said he went to the house and saw Briggs, 33, but no sign of the family.

"He was just really distraught and worn-out looking. Just not all there," June said.

He said he left the family's modest rambler and called authorities. Minutes after June's call, deputies broke down the door to find Briggs in the dining area, dying from a gunshot wound to the head, and his wife and children dead in the master bedroom.

June said he was not surprised investigators were examining the religious writings in the house. The family belonged to a fringe religious group called the "Feast of the Tabernacle" and would disappear for up to 10 days at a time on outings with the group, June said.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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