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The Orderud Triple Homicide: Murder in Norway

the-orderud-triple-homicide

The Orderud Family

This case takes place in Norway in 1999, and it's a story that dives into the complications of family relations, inheritance, revenge, and sibling rivalry.

Meet the Orderud family: father and mother, Kristian (born 1918) and Marie (born 1915). In April 1952, they welcomed their eldest and only daughter Anne into the family. Two years later, the family welcomed a boy, Per.

The father ran a family farm, the Orderud Family Farm, which was also their home. The farm is located about 80 miles from Oslo, Norway, and consisted of a main house, a secondary house, and a barn. The main house was a good-sized home. The rear of the house went up to the edge of the woods. The main residence and barn were only 656 feet apart. The second residence was up on a hill.

Anne and Per were raised on the farm until adulthood. By all accounts, this farm was just their way of life. They grew up there, and they both worked on the farm. But Per and Anne saw different futures for themselves.

Although Anne was the eldest and loved the farm, she didn't see it as her future; she wanted to leave and discover herself and make a life of her own. Anne would eventually leave and marry a man coincidentally named Per, like her brother.

Anne and Per lived in Oslo, the capital of Norway. They were a successful, vibrant couple who both worked for the government—she worked for Norway's Ministry of Defense, where she was the personal secretary for the Norwegian Defense Minister. Her husband Per worked for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a prominent high-level diplomat.

While Anne had achieved her dreams, her brother Per's lifelong dream was to eventually take over the family farm; he had no desire to leave like Anne did. He had worked on it since he was little and had made it known to his parents that this was his plan all along. Kristian, his father, retired when Per turned 30.

In 1984, Per had already been working on the farm with his father, but now that his father was retired, Per would be given more responsibility. Kristian would still own the family farm, but the plan was one day for Per to buy it from him. When Kristian retired, he and Marie, his wife, decided to move from the main house, to the secondary home.

This allowed their son Per to move into the main house on his own and run the farm from there. Because it's right across from the barn, it's next to everything that he would need. About 10 years later, when Per Orderud was 40, he met and married a 21-year-old woman named Veronica. She moved into the main house with Per.

Meanwhile, over in Oslo, strange things begin happening to Anne and her husband Per.

Per and Anne Become Targets

On March 3rd, 1997 at about 1:30 a.m., after an evening out with friends, Anne and her husband Per were assaulted by a random man on the sidewalk. The man threw Per down and started kicking him. The man also started hitting Anne. Their assailant eventually stops and walks away, leaving both Per and Anne injured but alive. The strange man didn't steal anything, just attacked them.

Then on July 15th or 17th (sources differ on the date), Anne discovers a suspicious device taped to the underside of her car. One report says the car involved was her ministry of defense car.

Anne drove to work with the strange-looking tube still attached underneath her car. She left the car parked outside the Ministry of Defense building in Oslo. She's wasn't sure what the object was and so she eventually goes to the Oslo police about it later that day. The police determined the object strapped to the underside of Anne's car is dynamite. It turns out to be more than half a kilo of explosives.

Less than a month later, on August 12th, 1998 another unsuccessful assassination attempt occurs, this time at their Oslo apartment.

Per wakes up in the middle of the night and smells gas inside the apartment. He also hears some kind of hissing noise coming right outside the front door, which h e opens to find that someone has left a five kilo tank of gas outside their door with the vent open. The tubing from the tank was put inside or right next to a crack in the front of the building, to allow the gas to leak.

Police also found a trail of gasoline that had been poured down the street leading to the front door. Obviously this could have caused a major explosion but apparently no one had actually lit the whole contraption on fire.

There is a lot of publicity around these events, but no one is arrested in connection with these assassination attempts. Per and Anne are taken to a secure location at a military camp.

On September 3rd, 1998, Per and Anne, afraid for their lives, decide to take the opportunity to go to New York and get away from the danger they are facing at home. They stay in New York for four months, during which Per serves as a consul general. In January 1999, Per and Anne decide to return home to Oslo.

They come home, feel like things have been safe. It's been four months, so they decide that they no longer need police protection. Hopefully, in their absence, whatever was going on is done. But despite their near misses with death, it doesn't stop knocking on their door.

On May 6, 1999, Anne's husband Per dies after a short illness. He had very recently been diagnosed with cancer and it took his life. There's some speculation that maybe his death was somehow caused by someone who wanted him dead. Maybe he was exposed to some sort of toxin or poison that game him cancer and caused his death. That's never been proven.

By May 15th, 1999, nine days after Per's death, a man calls 180 (Norway's version of 911) and makes threats, saying that Anne and her parents are going to be murdered. The operator alerts law enforcement to the threats, but they are unable to figure out who made the calls.

The Crime

On May 22nd, 1999, a grieving Anne is at the family farm, visiting her parents for the weekend. She's upset and wants to be with family. She drives the car to the family farm and leaves it parked outside the secondary house, where she's staying with her parents in a bedroom in the basement for the night.

On May 23, 1999, Kristian's brother Hans, goes to the farm to visit family but nobody answers the front door of his brother's house. Hans walks up the hill, goes around to the back of the house. It's there that he sees the first warning sign that things are not okay. He sees broken glass in the back from a door on the second-floor balcony.

Hans goes into the house to investigate and discovers three dead bodies, all shot at close range: 81-year-old Kristian, 84-year-old Mary, and 47-year-old Anne.

Anne was lying in her nightgown on the kitchen floor, Marie was on the floor in the living room, also in her nightgown, and Kristian was shot while still in bed.

Hans calls the police, who arrive on the scene and begin investigating the triple murder. It's immediately clear to the police that the murderer went in through the smashed back door. Police determined that Kristian and Marie had been sleeping in the primary bedroom, which was on the second floor.

Kristian was shot twice, first with a .38 and then with a .22. This made police suspect that there was more than one intruder. Kristian may have tried to get a shotgun he kept in the primary bedroom closet to defend them, but he was killed before he was able to do so. Marie was shot in the chest with the .38. She ran out of the bedroom and made it to the living room, but was then shot again with the .8.

Anne was staying on the lower level, so she must have run upstairs when she heard the gunshots. She was found upstairs lying on the floor in the kitchen by the kitchen door, which led outside, so maybe she was trying to get out of the house.

She too was shot by a .38. The police found multiple spent shell casings in the house from two different guns. They also found that the killer or at least one of them had left a partial shoe print on the broken glass of the door. Clearly the killer had kicked in the door.

Outside the house, the police find a yellow or orange woolly handknit sock. The police's theory is that the murderers wore socks over their shoes in order to avoid leaving shoe prints at the scene. Based on the partial shoe print on the glass, police believed that the sock they found could have come off the murderer's foot, before the murderer went inside.

I personally think it seems more likely that the sock fell off afterward, as the murderer was fleeing the scene and that's where the shoe print comes from.

The suspects: Veronica Orderud, Per Orderud, Lars Gronnerod, and Kristin Kirkemo

The suspects: Veronica Orderud, Per Orderud, Lars Gronnerod, and Kristin Kirkemo

The Investigation

From almost the beginning of the investigation, the police believed that the victims knew their murderer or murderers. Nothing was known to have been taken from the house, which ruled out robbery as the motive.

Given the previous assassination attempts, police believed that Anne was probably the intended target.

Police further believe that only someone who knew the family would have known that Anne was visiting her parents that weekend. The first person police interview is the only remaining member of the Orderud family, who also happened to be sleeping only 200 meters away in the main house the night of the murder.

However, Per and Veronica claim to have heard nothing. They say they didn't realize anything had happened until the police arrived to question them that morning.

I imagine that the police perhaps think it's odd that Per and Veronica hadn't heard the 12 gunshots that happened in the middle of the night. It's also possible more shots were fired because they found more than 12 shell casings.

For a variety of reasons, Per and Veronica became suspects early on. Apparently a neighbor who rented property on the farm told police that Per and Veronica's cars were gone that night, and so were the dogs.

If Per was indeed involved, why was he so desperate to kill his sister and his parents? Based on the earlier attempts on Anne's life, why were his parents dragged into it? As the police started digging into a motive, they discover details about the Orderud family that seemed to indicate it wasn't such an idyllic farm life after all.

Police Look Closer at Per

Christian and Per had come to an arrangement about the sale of the farm. After they retired, Per took over the day-to-day operations, and Per would later buy the farm from them. Until then, it would still be owned by Chrisitan.

Perhaps Christian's intention was to teach his son financial responsibility; he didn't want to just hand over the property.

Police later learned that Christian had come across some tax returns from the farm after he retired. Per had indicated himself as the owner of the farm on the forms, even though no sale had been made yet. Christian was bothered by this, as he felt his son was lying and also that Per wasn't sticking to their agreement.

Kristian hired a lawyer and increased the price that Per would have to pay for the family farm.

Police also learned that because Anne was the older sister, she was the first in line to inherit the farm if something were to happen to the parents. Apparently, Kristian was also upset with Per because the farm wasn't doing well; Kristian felt it wasn't being run right.

Per had also taken out a loan on the farm and this could jeopardize the farm's financial future again, screwing over not just himself but his sister as well.

Kristian and Per had a big fight over the financial workings of the farm. The father and son actually stopped talking to each other for a year because of this incident.

Per ended up suing his father, taking him to court over the price of the farm. The court found that Kristian had signed a contract and agreed on a price of the farm and it was improper to increase the price later.

Kristian appeals the decision, claiming he never signed any papers. The original court's finding is reversed because it's determined that Per had forged his father's signature on the papers.

Police realize that Per has a motive to kill his family—not just Anne, but also his parents. Especially since Anne was talking about dividing the farm into smaller pieces and selling them off to developers, because the farm was already failing anyway.

Per would obviously want to keep the farm intact, since he believed it rightfully belonged to him.

Per Didn't Act Alone

Police suspect that Per's wife Veronica may be involved. Her ex-boyfriend alleges that she only dated him for money and points out that she's 18 years younger than Per and was probably waiting for her husband to get the farm and inheritance.

While police were piecing all of this together, 10 days after the murder, they were called to some woods because of reports of gunshots. It turns out there was a woman out there named Kristin Kirkemo, taking target practice out in the woods.

Kristen is Veronica's sister, so suspecting her involvement, police quickly decide to interrogate her. During the course of the interview, the police become suspicious of her.

Police get a search warrant to search the house that Kristen lives in with her boyfriend Lars. The police find evidence of criminal behavior, including drugs, explosives, and guns—one of which is a 22 caliber gun.

Police test the .22, but determine it's not one of the murder weapons. However, the bullets in this .22 were exactly the same type of bullets that had been used by the .22 murder weapon. At this point, police question Lars as well, and their murder case now includes four suspects.

Kristin starts to turn on Lars, mentioning he owns a .38 gun that he calls "small boy," which is no longer around. She tells police that she and Lars provided guns to Per and Veronica and that they helped them plan the murders, but didn't help them commit the shootings.

Lars, on the other hand, admits to providing Per and Veronica with guns, but denies knowing anything about using those guns for a murder plot.

As the investigation continues, Kristin, Lars and other friends have convoluted stories about their whereabouts the night of the shootings, all contradicting each other while also revealing more about their potential involvement and motivations.

The Evidence Keeps Piling Up

The police confront Lars about his small boy gun. He tells police he doesn't have it anymore, because he sold it. But he did use it for target practice. Police go to the woods and they're able to find the spot where he used his small boy gun for target practice. Specifically, they find shell casings that match those at the murder scene.

In June or July 1999, there is a funeral and church service for the three murdered victims. Per is present at his family's funeral and is seen weeping in grief.

Arrests and Verdicts

At some point in June or July, Per and Veronica are arrested and charged with the murders of his parents. Her in-laws Kristin and Lars had already been arrested on illegal firearm charges, but now Kristin and Lars are also charged with complicity to commit murder. According to The Norway Post, the four defendants are released from custody.

On June 22, 2001, Per, Veronica, and Kristin were convicted on all charges which include complicity to commit premeditated murder, each receiving a sentence of 21 years in prison. They all appeal their sentences. Lars was found guilty of charges involving illegal weapons. He was sentenced to only two and a half years in prison.

By all accounts, the defendants are convicted of being accessories to the murder. However, none of them were charged or convicted of actually committing the murder. There wasn't enough evidence, so the question still remains: who actually pulled the trigger?

Aftermath

The Anne Orderud Paust murder case and the killings of her parents garnered unprecedented media attention, with daily coverage in the immediate aftermath of the crime. Intimate details of the accused were reported, including their full names, leading to discussions about the media's handling of the case and the potential impact of police and defense leaks to the press.

Per and Veronica are back together and continue to maintain their innocence. They have even hired private investigators to try to clear their name. In 2018, a witness tied Lars to the 180 call made back in 1999 that threatened the lives of his family members. We don't know why the witness waited 20 years to come forward.

Per and Veronica formally filed to reopen the case. Their investigator has produced more than 1,000 pages and 28 videos of material to the state commission, charged with evaluating whether criminal investigations should be reopened. The investigator claims that he's discovered new evidence that clears Per and Veronica.


© 2022 Lawrence Lease