Kevin Dahlgren repayed his hosts’ kindness with murder…
The event helped him find himself. Changed him for the better.
But Kevin Dahlgren wasn’t talking about a holiday. He was talking about the murder of his family. A family he hardly knew…
Kevin was born in Sacramento, California. But he had an older cousin, Veronika Harokova, who lived in Brno, in the Czech Republic.
In April 2013, Dahlgren visited. They didn’t know each other well. But he’d stay with Veronika, 46, her husband, Martin, 50, and sons, Filip, 25, and David, 16.
It’d be a chance for him to learn some Czech, experience life abroad and earn money giving English lessons. Most importantly, for Dahlgren, it’d be a fresh start.
He’d always dreamed of being a soldier. He felt that it’d be a way of making a difference. But when he’d applied to the US Army, he’d failed the enrolment tests.
Later, he’d tell psychiatrists he felt like a failure.
All his life, Dahlgren had been a loner. He’d found it difficult to fit in with people, make friends. He’d boast about things, trying to make himself more popular.
Once, he’d told his classmates he was planning to go to Africa to murder game poachers.
He’d boasted to his cousin Veronika, too. Soon after he’d arrived, he told her he’d managed to smuggle a knife on board a plane once. But soon it was clear Dahlgren didn’t fit in with his Czech family either.
Towards the end of May, Veronika’s husband Martin confided in their neighbour things weren’t quite right.
In fact, one night, Martin had seen Dahlgren running around the house with a knife.
What Martin and Veronika didn’t know was that Dahlgren was hearing voices. Voices he’d heard more or less his whole life. And now that he was in Brno, struggling to fit in, those voices were getting louder… telling him to do something wicked.
‘I had no control over my actions,’ he told psychologists before his trial. ‘I could only do what the voice instructed me to do. What happened to the family is a tragedy.’
That tragedy struck early on 22 May, 2013, when Dahlgren had been at Veronika’s for just three weeks.
David had already set off for school when Dahlgren attacked.
He ran at Veronika with an axe. Then he turned on Martin and Filip.
All three died of chopping and stabbing wounds.
Next he dragged their bodies down to the basement.
Three hours later, at 11am, the family’s cleaner arrived. But Dahlgren blocked her entrance.
‘No cleaning today,’ he told her, spreading his arms across the doorframe.
But Dahlgren wasn’t finished.
He’d turned the cleaner away, but he still had David to deal with.
So he texted the teen, asked him if he wanted to go for a run at lunchtime. When David replied yes, his fate was sealed.
As soon as he came through the front door at about 12.30, Dahlgren hacked him to death.
He tried to set fire to the bodies in the basement, covering them with blankets he’d set alight.
He then called a taxi, and asked to be taken to the airport.
By the time Veronika’s neighbours had seen smoke coming out of her house, Dahlgren was on a plane back to America.
But police were waiting for him when he landed.
In his suitcase, they found a pair of shorts spattered with blood belonging to his victims.
Two years later, he faced trial in the Czech Republic.
At first, Dahlgren denied it all. He said that while he’d been in Brno, he’d got into a fight with some Russian gangsters.
On the morning of the killings, he’d gone for a long run. When he’d got home, he’d found Veronika, Martin, Filip and David dead. A note on top of their bodies.
We will find you if you are in Europe, it read.
Dahlgren had panicked. Booked onto the first flight home. But that story didn’t wash with anyone.
So Dahlgren changed his plea. Yes, he’d killed four people. But only because the voice in his head had told him to. He was pleading insanity.
Assessments by psychiatrists, therapists and experts followed. One suggested he was interested in sadomasochistic sex. Another found him emotionally unstable. But he wasn’t insane.
Dahlgren may have been hearing voices, but he’d stayed in control.
He’d tried to cover his tracks, hadn’t allowed the cleaner in, and he’d set a trap for David. Then, he’d had the presence of mind to book a seat on a plane and call a taxi.
The taxi driver hadn’t suspected anything was wrong. If Dahlgren were in a state of agitation, he’d managed to hide it well.
In fact, Dahlgren told one expert the murders had had a positive influence on him, had helped him understand his personality.
Kevin Dahlgren was convicted of murder and, on 20 July this year, was handed a life sentence.
He plans to appeal.
But still the question remains. Why kill an innocent family? Perhaps only Dahlgren knows.