Detectives examine possible murder-suicide motives

A shrine honoring the victimes of Friday's murder-suicide lies on the corner of Startree and Bottletree lane in Saugus, Calif. Ryan Painter/The Signal.
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Homicide detectives know who killed the Birnkrant family, but no one knows why the patriarch of that Saugus family did it.

Michael Joseph Birnkrant, born Dec. 12, 1966, shot and killed his wife, Amy, 47; their daughter Drew, 20; son Sean, 11; and then himself inside their Startree Lane home.

Their bodies were found inside the home they shared after local sheriff’s deputies received a “check the welfare” call from a friend of the family.

“We’re not sure why he did it,” Lt. Rodney Moore of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Homicide Bureau told The Signal. “It’s still under investigation.”

What eludes him is a motive for the shooting.

“We’re coming at it from a multitude of angles,” Moore said.

One possible motive explored by Moore and his team is money.

Work life

Michael Birnkrant was a driver working in the film industry with more than four dozen movie credits to his name.

He worked on some of Hollywood’s most acclaimed movies such as “Star Trek,” Oscar-nominated films such as “Her,” and other box office successes.

Since 1998, his movie credits included blockbusters such as “Seabiscuit” and “National Treasure.” Birnkrant had worked on a significant film every year since 2002.

His last movie credit, however, was “Annabelle” released in 2014. At that point, the IMDB credits and industry work came to a halt.

Home life

In 2004, shortly after he began making money on film sets, he bought the house on Startree Lane with his wife, Amy.

In 2010, Amy began running a state-licensed day care from the home. A check with state officials revealed the day care maintained an unblemished record with not a single complaint or problem logged anywhere in the seven years it operated.

In 2013, Michael Birnkrant filed for bankruptcy after having suffered an unspecified disability, according to the lawyer who handled his Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.

From that point on, Birnkrant paid down a monthly debt to his creditors and was only three monthly payments away from paying down the debt completely, according to his lawyer.

One of Birnkrant’s neighbors, who spoke on condition he not be named, said Birnkrant didn’t appear to suffer from a physical ailment.

With his debt nearly paid, money looked less likely to be a motive behind the murder-suicide turned over to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office.

A review of documents filed with the Coroner’s Office, however, revealed a powerful tragedy that most surely had an impact on Michael Birnkrant.

Familial tragedy

On Sept. 7, 2008, Michael Birnkrant’s mother, Pamela Birnkrant, hanged herself inside her Northridge home.

That day, somebody tried to call Pamela Birnkrant. When they couldn’t get through, they notified the authorities who, as in the case in the shooting earlier this month, responded to the residence as a “check the welfare” call, Assistant Captain Ed Winter of the Coroner’s Office said.

“Somebody tried to call and they couldn’t get through,” Winter told The Signal, calling up the coroner file on Pamela Birnkrant. “A welfare check was done at 3:53 p.m. that day in 2008.”

Michael Birnkrant, the deceased woman’s son and therefore legal next of kin, was notified by the Coroner’s Office.

There was something else in the coroner case on the suicide of Pamela Birnkrant, a note that she suffered with clinical depression.

Today, a storage container stands in the driveway of the Birnkrant home.

Candles left by well-wishers on the outdoor window sill at the home Saturday, have been removed.

The mystery as to why the shooting happened at all, however, remains.

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