A man dies from carbon monoxide poisoning, but was he murdered?

The dead body of Kenneth Engie on the floor of his garage

Kenneth Engie was found dead

A man watching a waitress at a restaurant

They fought over the waitress

CASE DETAILS

On October 4, 1988, police in Edmore, North Dakota, began an investigation into the death of a local auto repair man—27-year-old Kenneth Engie.  Kenneth was discovered in his own garage by his uncle.  The cause of death was determined to be carbon monoxide poisoning.  Initially, police viewed it as a suicide.

Engie backing up his SUV into a blue truck

Engie deliberately backed into the truck

But, almost immediately, some of the evidence began to contradict the suicide theory.  Why was a fully loaded rifle found six feet away from Kenneth’s body?  There was a small pool of blood on the floor … where did that come from?  Even more puzzling was the fact that the car ignition had been turned off.  If Kenneth had, in fact, committed suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide, then who turned off the truck’s engine?  Kenneth Engie’s family insisted that suicide was out of the question.  But, if foul play was involved, who had a motive and the opportunity to commit the crime?  Within 12 hours, the police found a potential suspect who had both.

At 2:00 AM on the night Kenneth died, only two customers remained in a local bar—Kenneth, and Curtis Heck, another auto repairman.  According to Curtis, the bar was about to close when he and Kenneth got into a drunken scuffle:

“We was rolling around on the floor wrestling, and a bunch of dumb stuff.  There was some punches thrown back and forth but nobody really got hurt, and at one point I got him down on the floor and I held him down there, and I said, I’m going to let you up and when I let you up I want you to just go walk out the door.”

According to Curtis, Kenneth retaliated moments later:

“I heard the crash out front, and I knew what it was soon as I heard it.  And I seen my pickup out there, it had been broadsided.”

A man reaching for keys in a cars ignition

Who turned off the ignition?

Heck decided to get even.  About an hour later, he and the bartender drove to Kenneth’s home, where they saw Kenneth’s truck parked in the driveway:

“I heard a noise coming from the garage, a groaning sound, so I went around to the back door, and I opened up the door and went in.  I should have realized, you know, that there was something wrong with him, but, I didn’t.  I was mad at him anyway.  Any other time, if I’d have seen somebody on the floor moaning and groaning I certainly wouldn’t have left him there.  But you know, the guy had just smashed my pickup all to pieces, and I figured he was sick from drinking so I figured go ahead and spend the night on the garage floor.”

According to Larry Wobbema, Chief of Police for the Edmore Police Department, this was the last time Kenneth was seen alive:

“I believe that Kenneth Engie, when he was in the garage, and it became cool, started the vehicle, sat there and waited for Curtis Heck to come to the garage for the confrontation that was bound to happen.  Realizing that something is happening to him, at this point I believe he turned the vehicle off that was in the garage, a pickup, started to head for the door, and didn’t quite make it to the door before he collapsed.  Time passed, and he died waiting for Curtis Heck.”

Investigators measuring the location of the rifle in relation to Engies body

A fully loaded rifle was 6 feet from Engie

However, Kenneth’s uncle, Richard Nygaard, believed that his nephew heard Curtis kicking his truck and then fought with him when he came into the garage:

“He fell down and probably was knocked unconscious, and Curtis just shut the door and walked away and then realized the truck was running and come back, and went in and shut it off.  With a sealed garage, there was still enough carbon monoxide fumes in there to still do somebody in.”

Several puzzling questions continue to loom over this case.  Did Kenneth start up the truck to keep warm until Curtis Heck arrived?  He was a trained mechanic and certainly knew the lethal possibilities of running an engine in a small, enclosed space, unless alcohol had impaired his judgment.  But if a drunken Kenneth did start the truck and was overcome by fumes, how could he have had the clarity of mind to cut the ignition, but still be unable to reach the nearby door?  And finally, if it was not Kenneth who turned off the ignition, then who did, and left him on the floor to die?  Many years have passed since Kenneth Engie was found dead and his family still believes that the whole story is yet to be heard.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season three with Robert Stack and in season five with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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19 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Noobmaster69

    I think he drug overdosed

    Reply

  2. Avatar

    Jack Off

    Did anyone check to see if he was “probed” by aliens?

    Reply

  3. Avatar

    Former Edmore Resident

    Aliens I tell you! Ask anyone about the “Edmore Lights”.

    Reply

  4. Avatar

    thinkingoutloud

    it seems he was murdered. i don’t think kenneth was waiting around for curtis to come by. He may have been in his garage for another purpose, but both the bartender and curtis went to his place and curtis admitted he was trying to get even. there was clearly a brawl in the garage that left him unconscious and he died of the poisoning. either the bartender or curtis intentionally turned off the car to avoid any further issues until police or a witness showed up.

    since kenneth was a mechanic, drunk or not, he would know best not to leave a car running for an extended period of time in an enclosed area.

    Reply

  5. Avatar

    Andrew

    It’s certainly possible that he started the truck in the garage in order to move it out, as they mentioned in the story, but then dozed off shortly thereafter (as he was severely intoxicated and may have succumb the the alcohol-induced exhaustion that would have resulted). After a while he awoke, shut off the ignition, and attempted to exit the garage but then collapsed due to carbon monoxide poisoning. As tragic as it may be, the most likely scenario based on the evidence presented in this feature is that he died an accidental death, and was not the victim of either suicide or homicide.

    Reply

  6. Avatar

    Anon

    I’m from this town, born and raised. It’s still locally believed that Kenneth was murdered. Curtis Heck was known to be a bully and a raging alcoholic with a hair triggered temper. He thought he was better than everyone else. He and Kenny had been at odds for awhile based on the mutual interest in the bartender and the fact that Kenny’s repair shop was more successful than Heck’s.

    Reply

  7. Avatar

    s.k.

    Did they fingerprint the keys in the ignition? Damaged muffler seems possible.

    Reply

  8. Avatar

    nm

  9. Avatar

    CRJ

    Oh my god No how Did He Die?

    Reply

  10. Avatar

    LUIS FREEH

    THE BARTENDER CALLED THE POLICE AND THEY “STALKED THEM BOTH” UNTIL THEY SAW ENGIE WITH HIS GUN COMING OUT OF THE HOUSE SO THEY PUT HIS TRUCK (HE HAD LEFT RUNNING) IN HIS GARAGE (STILL RUNNING) AND LOCKED HIM IN WITH HIS GUN! “PLAYING NON LETHAL POLICE NOW” OHH! WE DIDN’T KNOW!

    Reply

  11. Avatar

    58210

    He had to have been murdered all the signs are there

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Anonymous

      What signs? The autopsy revealed no signs of assault. There is literally zero evidence for a murder.

      This is an instance where the family can’t cope with the fact that a loved one died because he made a stupid mistake while hammered and thus cries foul play.

      Reply

      • Avatar

        Irene

        Check the bartender may have wanted to check up on him had the other guy drive her there he beat up truck she went to cool the guy off in garage then turns truck on left him die came back later to shut truck down maybe even started it while he was in house he came out to see what was going on may have felt funny in house brought his gun out with him to investigate and got overcome by fu fumes dropped gun went to turn ignition off Did they fingerprint truck handle and ignition ?

        Reply

      • Avatar

        Rene

        Check the bartender may have wanted to check up on him had the other guy drive her there he beat up truck she went to cool the guy off in garage then turns truck on left him die came back later to shut truck down maybe even started it while he was in house he came out to see what was going on may have felt funny in house brought his gun out with him to investigate and got overcome by fu fumes dropped gun went to turn ignition off Did they fingerprint truck handle and ignition ?

        Reply

  12. Avatar

    Becca

    Is there a photo of Kenneth available? There wasn’t one shown in the segment?

    Reply

  13. Avatar

    Bob

    If he supposedly rammed the others truck by reversing into it then could he have busted his exhaust and could have been poisoned on the drive home within the vehicle?

    Reply

  14. Avatar

    Tiffany

    He probably started the car to keep warm and dozed off. Then woke up and realized what was happening, shut it off and tried to make it out but being impaired plus being in the garage for who knows how long with the engine going probably contributed to him not making it.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Anonymous

      I think he was murdered by curtis to get even with him

      Reply

      • Avatar

        Irene

        What about bar maid could have used excuse saying she wanted to check on him had Curtis Drive her there went into garage started engine when KEN started to feel funny and heard engine got his gun came out dropped gun went to turn truck off turned to go back and collapsed she left him to die Curtis covered for her or they plotted together so he kicked the truck so KEN would come out

        Reply

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