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James MacPherson, Associated Press, Published November 26 2012

Slain New Town woman remembered as civic-minded churchgoer

BISMARCK — Hundreds of mourners filled a tiny northwest North Dakota church for the funeral of a 64-year-old woman shot to death with three of her grandchildren last week in their New Town home.

Martha Johnson was remembered Monday as a civic-minded, churchgoing woman who loved life and her family, said the Rev. Grant Patterson, the family's pastor.

“A lot of tears were shed here today,” said Patterson, who presided over the funeral.

Johnson and her grandchildren — 13-year-old Benjamin Schuster, 10-year-old Julia Schuster and 6-year-old Luke Schuster — were found fatally shot in their home on the Fort Berthold Reservation on Nov. 18.

The FBI told The Associated Press that a New Town man who killed himself in Parshall later in the day, Kalcie Eagle, 21, is considered a person of interest in the case. The FBI is handling the investigation because it has jurisdiction on reservations.

Neither Johnson nor her grandchildren were tribal members, authorities said. Eagle was a member of the Three Affilated Tribes.

FBI spokesman Greg Boosalis declined to discuss details of the case again Monday, citing agency policy for ongoing investigations, but he reiterated that authorities do not consider the public to be in danger.

Mourners waited in long lines to enter Bethel Lutheran Church, where Johnson served as chairwoman of the church's board. Some 400 people packed in the building that seats only 180 in the pews, the pastor said.

“The choir loft, the fellowship hall and the dining room were full,” he said. “We didn't have room enough to seat everybody.”

Vehicles were backed up for blocks as the funeral procession made its way through the town of fewer than 2,000 people.

Services for the Schuster children are slated for Thursday in the eastern North Dakota community of Warsaw, where the children lived before moving to New Town earlier this year to live with their grandparents. The children's parents are Kevin and Rebecca Schuster of Minto.

Twelve-year-old Christian Schuster survived the deadly shooting by feigning death as he lay under his slain brother's body, and his 8-year-old sister, Ava, was spared because she was down the street “sledding with some pals,” Patterson said.

Harley Johnson, Martha's husband of 32 years, was out hunting at the time of the shootings.

Johnson's obituary says she was involved in many community activities, from Girl Scouts to 4-H. She also was the first female president of the New Town Chamber of Commerce. Johnson recently retired as a finance and human resources manager at Northrup Grumman in New Town.

Her obituary says she was a private pilot and an “avid sportswoman” who enjoyed hunting and fishing, as well as also bowling, bridge, quilting, sewing and gardening.

Johnson also routinely did things for those in need — from feeding them to taking people out for a boat ride, her pastor said.

“She was a gracious woman,” Patterson said.

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