Law enforcement officials have released little information about the August double homicide near Pilot Butte in Bend, but recent probate court filings accuse Nevada man Ken Atkinson of being a suspect in the killing of his brother and his fiancé.
The filings in Deschutes County Circuit Court from this month further say victim Ray Atkinson Jr.’s estate is preparing a wrongful death lawsuit against Ken Atkinson.
Ken Atkinson, a former corrections officer with an address in Ely, Nevada, and his probate lawyer, Lawrence Erwin, declined to be interviewed for this story. In court filings, Ken Atkinson called the death of his brother “tragic” and accusations against him “innuendo.”
On Aug. 15, Ray Atkinson Jr. and his fiancee, Natasha “Tasha” Newby, were found dead in the basement of the home at 932 NE 12th St. Police announced homicide was the cause and said though no suspects were in custody, there was no threat to the Bend community.
The home on NE 12th Street was a source of considerable conflict between Atkinson Jr., 34, and his older brother, Ken, 53, court records show. For 50 years, it belonged to their father, Ray Atkinson Sr., who died without a will in late 2019.
The brothers have different mothers and are their father’s only children.
In February, after several weeks of legal back-and-forth, a judge ruled that the two would be co-personal representatives of their father’s estate, which is valued at $400,000, mainly the value of the home. Both brothers argued in court filings that they had a rightful claim to the full estate.
Atkinson Jr. and Newby were living in the house at the time of their deaths. Afterward, Atkinson Jr.’s maternal half-brother, Jonathan Woodstock, was made his personal representative, meaning Woodstock assumed Atkinson Jr.’s 50% stake in Atkinson Sr.’s estate.
Woodstock, a Washington resident, is not biologically related to Ken Atkinson and the two haven’t met in person. They’ve been feuding in probate court since Woodstock was named his brother’s heir.
Woodstock moved into the Bend house several weeks after the deaths and he’s been preparing the home for sale. He wrote in a court filing in October he doesn’t intend to remain in the area after it sells. Ken Atkinson has sought numerous times to evict Woodstock from the property, going as far as changing the locks three times and calling the police to have Woodstock removed as a trespasser. Police advised him it was a “civil matter,” according to court records.
Woodstock writes that since the deaths of Atkinson Jr. and Newby, Ken Atkinson has been out of communication and outside the area.
The process of selling the house has been slowed in part because the elder Atkinson was a hoarder and considerable time is needed to clean and sort everything, Woodstock’s attorney wrote in a filing. Among the clutter are pieces of blood-covered evidence that weren’t collected by police during the initial crime scene processing. Woodstock wrote that allowing Ken Atkinson to have access to the home would be a conflict of interest with the pending criminal investigation and impending wrongful death lawsuit.
A filing by Woodstock’s attorney, Brian Thompson, states that Woodstock had retained the local firm Dwyer Williams Cherkoss to prepare a wrongful death lawsuit against Ken Atkinson.
“A complaint is expected to be filed shortly,” Thompson wrote.
Representatives of the law firm declined to confirm this.
In a filing, Ken Atkinson denies being a prime suspect in his brother’s death, calling it tragic and the accusations against him “innuendo.” He wrote that the threat of a lawsuit should not be enough to remove him as an heir to his father’s estate.
Deschutes District Attorney John Hummel last week confirmed for the first time that police had multiple suspects in the case, which has been slowed by considerable delays at the state crime lab.
Under Oregon’s “slayer statute,” Ken Atkinson would not be able to inherit anything from his brother if found liable for his death.