Killer in murder-suicide yet to be ID’d officially

Homicide detectives investigate a murder-suicide on the 28800 block of Startree Lane in Saugus on Jan. 5, 2018. Austin Dave/The Signal



Medical examiners with the Coroner’s Office have yet to release the identity of the man who shot and killed his wife and two children in Friday’s murder-suicide, despite the fact that even though the murder victims have been named — but there’s a reason.

Three members of the Birnkrant family were found Friday morning by deputies of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station at their Saugus home after a friend requested a “check the welfare” call, which deputies can conduct when there’s concern for someone’s well-being.

Amy Birnkrant, 47; her daughter Drew, 20; and son Sean, 11, were identified as the victims in what LASD Homicide detectives with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department believe was a murder-suicide perpetrated by Amy’s husband.

Medical examiners and homicide detectives have not released the husband’s name; however, the man’s identity has been widely reported in the media. Through an independent records check, The Signal has learned the husband’s name was Michael Birnkrant. He was 51.

But, just because a nugget of information is widely shared on social media, doesn’t make it true and doesn’t make it accurate.

When it comes to dying in Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles County Department of Medical-Examiner Coroner has the final official word on identifying the deceased.

Assistant Captain Ed Winter, spokesman for the coroner’s office, said he has not released the identity of the man blamed for killing his family because he needs to contact the man’s “legal” next of kin.

“I have not released his name,” he told The Signal Monday morning. “Because I haven’t talked to his legal next of kin.”

In many cases, relatives of a deceased person, such as cousins, aunts and uncles, may know the identity of their loved one who died. They may be kin, just not legal next of kin.

“If the (deceased) person is married then the legal next of kin is the spouse,” Winter explained Monday.

“If there’s no spouse, then any adult child would be the legal next of kin,” he said. “If there is no spouse and no (adult) children, then it’s the parents who are the next legal next of kin.”

In the case of Amy Birnkrant’s husband, the legal next of kin would be the dead man’s parents.

Winter is still trying to locate them, he told The Signal on Monday.

The protocol followed in identifying the dead often gets obscured, Winter said, when people claim to know information that has not been disclosed officially.

“A lot of times we have cousins at the scene (of a sudden death) talking to the media when we haven’t released the name (of the deceased),” he said.

The coroner’s official mandate, spelled out clearly on the Los Angeles County website, reads:  It is the Medical Examiner-Coroner’s responsibility to notify the decedent’s next of kin of the death of their loved one.

And, there’s still a protocol to follow for people wanting to handle such notification themselves.

The coroner’s webpage reads:  “If you prefer to notify the next of kin as part of your investigation in lieu of the Coroner making the notification, this must be coordinated with Medical Examiner-Coroner personnel.

“After that period, the Coroner will initiate its own efforts to notify the legal next of kin.”

This protocol also applies to homicide detectives and other law enforcement investigators.

To that particular point, the Coroner’s webpage reads: “When a law enforcement agency assumes the responsibility of notification of death to the legal next of kin, the Coroner shall be advised as soon as possible after the notification is completed.”

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