Authorities ID woman, 8-year-old son killed in Willits-area double murder-suicide

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Where to go for help

Project Sanctuary crisis counselors are available 24/7 for domestic violence victims in Mendocino County. Call 707-463-4357 (inland area) or 707-964-4357 (coastal area). The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-7233.

A man shot to death his young son and the boy’s mother before killing himself with the same rifle Thursday at an isolated, run-down property several miles northeast of Willits, Mendocino County authorities said Friday.

Sheriff’s officials said the gunman had been in a troubled relationship with the female victim, who returned several months ago with her son to the Willits area. The woman and boy lived on the property in the 5000 block of Hearst Willits Road where they were killed, sheriff’s officials said.

The victims were identified as Krissy Lynn Orbon, 32, originally from Michigan, and her 8-year-old son, Damian Michael Wilkins, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The gunman’s name has not been released because his family have not been notified, the Sheriff’s Office said.

“The romantic status between the mother and father was inconsistent and at the time of their deaths we believe they were not together,” Capt. Greg Van Patten of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office said. “We think their relationship ended about a month ago.”

The Sheriff’s Office did not say how many shots had been fired in the slayings or where the victims were struck. All three bodies were found inside a house on the property.

The Sheriff’s Office had not had contact with either of the adults over the past eight years, and learned of their relationship from someone who knew them, Van Patten said.

“There is nothing documented with our office as far as prior domestic abuse reports dating back to 2011 but that does not mean other jurisdictions did not know something about this couple,” Van Patten said.

The property, located 4 miles outside Willits city limits, is in a lightly populated rural area with locked gates on most driveways. Many homes are not visible from the road.

A neighbor said he was casually acquainted with the owner of the property where the slayings occurred as well as with a man who he believed was the boy’s father. He was a large man with tattoos, said the neighbor, who asked not to be identified.

“You could tell he had a little bit of a partying past,” he said, adding the man “seemed to be more tweaker than pothead.”

Authorities said the gunman did not live with Orbon and Wilkins at the time of the slaying but frequently came to visit his son.

The 1,000-square-foot home where the bodies were found is surrounded by trailers parked on the property, Van Patten said. The property owner was a close friend of Orbon’s, authorities said.

Sheriff’s deputies said they received a call from a neighbor on Thursday afternoon who had looked through a window of the victims’ home and saw a large amount of blood inside on the floor.

The rifle used in the killings, a .22-caliber, was believed to be stolen during a recent burglary of a neighbor’s house, Van Patten said.

Properties in the area are involved in the cannabis trade, Van Patten said, but he said the murders appeared to be an isolated case of domestic violence without any known connection to the drug trade.

The lack of any previous reports in Mendocino County calling attention to the gunman or his victims did not surprise authorities.

Where to go for help

Project Sanctuary crisis counselors are available 24/7 for domestic violence victims in Mendocino County. Call 707-463-4357 (inland area) or 707-964-4357 (coastal area). The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-7233.

“As domestic violence increases in intensity and frequency, many times victims do not know how to seek help,” Van Patten said. “This is a sad case of escalation that we always hope is preventable, but unfortunately this ended in the worst way possible.”

Sheriff’s officials said Orbon was from Michigan, but he did not elaborate on where in the state. The gunman was known around Mendocino County but may be from the East Coast, Van Patten said. Authorities were not certain partly because Sheriff’s Office records date back only to 2011 as a result of a computer system upgrade, and officials were not able to reach family members.

The boy was home-schooled by his mother and was not known to administrators at Willits Unified School District, which includes about 1,500 students from kindergarten through high school.

The Sheriff’s Office did not have any prior contact with local social services officials involving the boy.

Willits, with a population of nearly 5,000, is one of four incorporated cities in Mendocino County. News of the killings shook some residents, who described the remote area where the deaths occurred as isolated and overlooked.

Linda Matz, owner of a Main Street gift shop in town, said the county has been “dealing with mental health issues for years.”

“I just found it absolutely shocking,” said Sara Mann, who runs a Main Street clothing boutique. Across the street sits the coffee shop operated by her husband, Tom Mann.

“Society is not well,” he said. “If I lived up there I’d have two dogs.”

Such isolation can make it difficult for victims of domestic violence to seek help, said Dina Polkinghorne, the executive director of Project Sanctuary, a domestic violence and rape crisis support center with offices in Ukiah and Fort Bragg.

“I’m just fearful that there’s folks that are so isolated that they can’t even muster up the energy to make the drive to Ukiah,” Polkinghorne said.

Project Sanctuary provides about 2,000 counseling sessions a year to Mendocino County residents and helps around 250 people a year obtain restraining orders, she said. They also shelter about 60 women and 50 children a year in their emergency safehouse.

The center has seen a decrease in visits over the past year, a trend that Polkinghorne attributed to fear among undocumented victims of deportation if they seek help. The group does not share information with authorities about residents’ citizenship status.

Project Sanctuary was recently awarded a grant that allowed it to hire an advocate to travel to rural areas and meet with domestic violence victims, and counseling is available over the phone for people who live in isolated areas.

The murders represent the second and third domestic-violence related slayings in Mendocino County in the past year. Also, Khadijah Britton, a Round Valley tribal member, remains missing after she was last seen in February being forced into a car at gunpoint by her boyfriend, according to witnesses. He is now serving a four-year term in San Quentin State Prison on an unrelated firearm conviction.

Polkinghorne said the three cases point to a high level of deadly domestic violence in the county, given its relatively low population of around 88,000.

Sheriff’s officials stressed that they were dedicating a high level of attention to Thursday’s murders.

“A lot of investigators working on this case are mothers and fathers, so it has really hit home for our department,” Van Patten said. It was “difficult to not have it feel personal, so we are all working to keep it together since this is a sensitive situation.”

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Beale at 707-521-5205 or andrew.beale@pressdemocrat.com; Staff Writer Alexandria Bordas at 707-521-5337 or alexandria.bordas@pressdemocrat.com; and Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

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