SUNRIVER, Ore. - More than two months after police found the bodies of three family members in a Sunriver-area home, investigators are preparing to close the case -- but they still have plenty of unanswered questions.
On March 11, a passer-by spotted a man hanging by a rope outside of a garage on Hermosa Road. Police later determined that the man, Joachim Steffan, had strangled his wife, Dagmar, and 7-year-old son, Pascal, and then hanged himself. Detectives searched the scene, interviewed friends and family members and read three notes left by Steffan that indicated the couple was struggling with money and worried about being deported to Germany. They determined that no one else was involved in the deaths and labeled the incident a murder-suicide.
But some aspects of the crime still didn't add up.
Capt. Marc Mills of the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office said investigators had some working theories about exactly what happened in the home and hoped toxicology tests of the victims' blood might help. In particular, he said they were curious about why Dagmar and Pascal did not seem to have struggled before they died.
This week, the Sheriff's Office received the test results from the Oregon State Police crime lab but Mills said the results were not what detectives were expecting.
"There were no indications of any drugs in any of their systems," he said. "If there was, it would have helped explain some things, some theories that we had. And now, of course, the (questions) that we had, we may not be able to answer."
Mills said officials still aren't sure exactly when the Steffans died. They were last seen on the afternoon of March 10 and found the next morning.
According to a search warrant filed by detectives on March 11, the mother and son were discovered in a bed, covered by a blanket. The family's dog and two cats were also in the bedroom, their throats cut.
After the deaths, friends and neighbors of the family said Joachim and Dagmar, who ran several businesses, including a construction company and a La Pine coin laundry, had been under financial stress. The couple had problems renewing their visas and worried they'd have to return to their home country of Germany.
In the months before the murders, the couple began selling their belongings and put their house on the market. In one of the letters left at the scene, Joachim Steffan wrote that he "didn't want to start over."
Mills said investigators met with some of the Steffans' family members who traveled from Germany after the deaths. He said it was difficult to tell the family that some questions may never be answered -- and frustrating for officials who want to figure out if something could have been done to prevent the situation.