More than statistics: Murder victim’s family remembers loved one

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – A knock on the door one December night changed Nancy Furlow’s life forever.

“When two cops come to your door in the middle of the night, you know it’s bad,” Furlow said. “I was afraid something had happened to Brandon.”

On December 2, 2017, Furlow experienced a parent’s worst nightmare: the murder of his 20-year-old grandson, Brandon Irlmeier, who had raised him since birth.

“It was like an atomic bomb went off inside me,” Furlow said. “Everything I understood about life, life and the afterlife – everything – was destroyed and gone before my body hit the floor, because I just fell on the floor.”

Between 2016 and 2020, many other families across the state shared a similar nightmare. According to A New account Between 2011-2015 and 2016-2020, according to the Alaska Department of Public Health’s Division of Public Health, homicides in Alaska increased 44 percent.

Mat-Su saw the largest relative increase in violent deaths, up more than 70 percent.

Anchorage and the Southeast region saw more than 50% growth. The figures also show that between 2011 and 2020, there were more male than female homicide victims.

While the state says it’s in line with trends, to Furlow, the numbers are normal. Behind each number, he said, is a name.

“One of them was Brandon,” Furlow said. “And the family, their lives changed forever.”

It’s been over 5 years since Furlow lived this nightmare. A moment, he said, who stole everything. His life was now divided, before and after Irlmeier’s death. Furlow says the fact that the murder is a cold case makes the pain of his death worse.

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“He had all these places he wanted to go,” Furlow said.

Furlow keeps his grandson’s memory alive, recounting how the boy, experiencing a summer in the Lower 48 for the first time, was confused and scared as the night sky darkened. And how he was confused as a child, why the leaves fall from the trees in the summer. Furlove said that as a child, he would catch his grandson trying to put leaves back on the trees. His grandson will always remember how he could make someone fall out of their chair laughing and his protective spirit.

And as another day passes without answers, Furlow said, he remains determined to forever continue to search for answers to what happened that night and continue to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous men.

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