photo of Elizabeth Engstrom by Mary Bartnikowski

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Something Happened to Grandma

One cold February night, two people came home from a satisfying dinner with friends only to be ambushed by a rain of gunfire from the balcony of their own home. When he was finished, both lay dying on the floor. He stood over first the man and then his mother, and fired one last round in each to end their pain. The murderer was a family man, a former police officer, and a former Mormon missionary. He then grabbed up his terrified wife and screaming daughter and they all ran, shoeless, into the night, initiating a nationwide search for the “armed and extremely dangerous” couple. Their cross-country trail of lies culminated in an episode of the television show America’s Most Wanted and ended in a SWAT-team assault on the other side of the country.

What pressure cooker exploded in that man’s mind that February night? Was it an impulse, the product of an emotional breakdown? Or had he harbored such deep-seated feelings of hate for so long that he carefully plotted this event over decades, working out his alibi far in advance of the court trial he knew would eventually take place?

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Foreword to Something Happened to Grandma
by Marilyn Bardsley

Gabriel Morris was a rambunctious but adorable child who was probably sexually abused by his father while his mother tried to win back custody of him. He grew into an intelligent and gifted adult, but there was something very wrong. As he grew older, serious character flaws and emotional problems emerged which made it impossible for him to hold a job for any length of time. Eventually his deceptions and deep-seated anger caught up with him, precipitating a tragic family crisis.

Elizabeth Engstrom is uniquely positioned to write this story. She lives in Oregon and attended Gabriel Morris’ recent trial, observing both Morris’ behavior and the impact that his crimes had upon his family. Known primarily as a novelist of mystery books with dark psychological landscapes, the chilling story of Gabriel Morris is one that dovetails with both Engstrom’s fiction and nonfiction accomplishments.