An Arizona man has been arrested on suspicion of killing his wife in what was initially reported as a suicide outside their town of Arlington home in 1988.
Mark W. Bringe, 70, was taken into custody Monday at his home in Sahurita, Arizona, by U.S. Border Patrol Officers and officers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety after the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office filed a one-count complaint charging Bringe with first-degree murder.
The cold case, originally reported as a suicide, was brought back to public attention last September when the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office asked for the public’s help looking for new information in the case. Sheriff’s Detective Lt. Roger Brandner touted cooperation between the department and the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation.
“It really has been coming together for the last three to four years,” Brandner said Monday. “Our lead investigator, A.J. Agnew, paired up with DCI and they really put a lot of hard work into it. And we could see this positive end result coming for a long time now.”
Brandner said in a 2017 interview that the case had preceded his time as a detective, but he was introduced to it when retired Columbia County Sheriff James Smith came to him and said that the case had been bothering him and may bear a fresh look by investigators.
On Aug. 19, 1988, a Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputy was dispatched at about 5 p.m. to the ranch home belonging to Bringe and his wife, Lorelei, in the town of Arlington, outside Poynette, where they lived with their two children. There, 33-year-old Lorelei Bringe was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the head, with two Titan semiautomatic .25-caliber pistols nearby, with a clip and a holster.
The discovery of Lorelei Bringe’s body was reported by her husband, who was at the residence with his wife’s father.
According to statements to law enforcement from both men, Bringe’s father-in-law asked where his daughter was and the two men went outside to find her.
According to the criminal complaint, in a Feb. 27, 2017, interview with detectives, Bringe said when they went outside, he had his father-in-law go to the left while he went to the right, so that he would not be the one who found his wife’s body first.
The statement implicated Bringe, according to the complaint, as having prior knowledge of both his wife’s death, and the location of her body, and having not taking any action with that knowledge.
Although there is an assumed margin of error given the fallibility of memory over the course of nearly 30 years, inconsistencies between statements went beyond what would be expected, according to Brandner.
“Obviously, when there are conflicting statements in any investigation, you have to weigh that against how important it is and if there is a gap in time, one can understand that there can be some differences,” Brandner said. “The facts are the facts. His wife died and his recollection of that should be pretty consistent no matter what the time frame is.”
In another 2017 interview with investigators, Agnew and DCI Special Agent Rafael De La Rosa discussed the guns found at the scene with Bringe. He reportedly asked the officers if they carry backup guns in case their weapons jam, given jamming issues with semiautomatic weapons is common knowledge to those experienced with firearms, Bringe said.
Bringe also told detectives that his wife “was not a gun person,” and to his knowledge had never fired a gun before that day.
The complaint further pointed out that analysis by a pathologist found that to kill herself, Lorelei Bringe would have needed to shoot with her left hand, despite being right-handed, placing her among only 5.5 percent of handgun suicide victims. The likelihood of the scenario was further narrowed on the basis of the awkward trajectory of the bullet and, generally, women are less likely to use firearms to commit suicide than men.
Detectives have been ready to make an arrest over the past couple of months, according to Brandner, as final steps of due diligence were being taken.
“When you investigate a case that is 30 years old, to have the patience and the dedication and persistence to work that and try to find the facts is incredible,” Brandner said. “The job that Detective Sgt. Agnew and the special agent did is really second to none.”
Bringe is expected to appear in Arizona court today for an extradition hearing, whereupon he may dispute custody or waive the hearing and be immediately transferred to the Columbia County Jail to face charges in Columbia County Circuit Court.