Shortly before 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 22, 2015, 13-year-old Crystal Bever walked upstairs to tell her two brothers, Richard, 18, and Michael, 16, to finish cleaning the dishes before going to bed. The request came from their mother, April, 44, who had earlier that week prepared a birthday cake for Autumn, the youngest Bever, who would be soon turning two.
When Crystal reached the brothers’ bedroom, they were trying on body armor — not an unusual scene for the quiet, awkward teens who had in recent months began to show a growing interest in firearms, knives, weapons and even serial killers. Crystal had brought this to her parents’ attention in the last few months, but April and 52-year-old David, their father, passed off the teens’ hobbies as typical of boys their age.
After Crystal relayed the request, one brother asked the other a strange question.
“Should we do it now?”
“Well, I’m here now,” Crystal replied, unaware of the gravity of the situation. “What do you want?”
Michael Bever motioned for Crystal to see something on his computer. When she faced the bright screen, Robert approached her from behind, and with a knife slashed from one side of her throat to the other. Stunned by the completely unexpected attack, Crystal staggered back and out of the room, but not before Robert stabbed her several times in the chest, arm, shoulder and stomach, trying in desperation to pull off the brutal attack he and Michael had planned for months.
Crystal briefly considered running into her room for her cell phone before instead stumbling downstairs and outside. She triggered the home’s alarm system, but by the time she reached the front yard, she had collapsed in a pool of blood. The slash across her throat filled her lungs with fluid, and from the gashes in her stomach protruded an organ.
“I kind of just held it in my hand,” Crystal later recalled.
Despite the blaring alarm and the bloody scene outside, Crystal was soon dragged back into the home. Michael attempted to strangle her to death, and believed he had succeeded when he heard a final gurgling escape her lungs.
When police arrived around 11:45 p.m. — some 15 minutes after a 911 call came from a young boy at the home — Crystal was inside the doorway, calling desperately for help. The first officers on the scene saw the enormous amount of blood outside, heard Crystal’s quiet calls and quickly entered the home, unaware of what had occurred, or who had perpetrated the attack.
What they found inside was one of the most harrowing crime scenes they would ever witness, and by the end of the night, officers would find five members of the Bever family dead.
A Quiet Life in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
In the years leading up to that night, the Bever family led a quiet, reclusive life in the Indian Springs neighborhood of southern Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. The largest suburb of Tulsa — and fourth largest city in the Sooner State — is known for its peaceful residential atmosphere, clean parks and middle-class leanings.
The Bevers, with 7 children, had one of the larger homes on their block, but despite their sizable household, the family rarely interacted with the community. Interviews with neighbors after July 22 revealed that the children hardly played outside, the parents weren’t typically involved in local events, and little was known about the family’s daily lives.
“They were very, very reclusive,” said one neighbor, who noted that in the days before the attack, she noticed Michael Bever walking around the block, but didn’t know who he was at the time.
The Bevers’ isolation was no accident: April homeschooled the children, and didn’t appear to work with nearby homeschooled groups, as is sometimes the case. She was active on Reddit, however, and often posted about topics related to homeschooling, childrearing, and premature babies. Autumn had been born early, and April — who one neighbor called “very much a mother hen” — even started a nonprofit called Autumn Hope, Inc. to help the families of premature babies. Interestingly, one of April’s Reddit posts explained that she had married David in Texas when she was only 15, and he was 26.
David worked as a technology consultant and together, he and April encouraged the children — in particular, Robert and Michael — to hone their interests in computer technology. It was an easy sell for the oldest Bever brothers, who spent hours online looking at YouTube videos and developing an interest in some of the more violent offerings of the platform.
The Bever household was one of paradox: April and David were religious and wanted to shield their children from some aspects of the real world, but their openness with technology led the brothers to fixate on destructive ideas that held no real-world context for them. They were naïve, and in their formative teen years, began to obsess over school shooters, spree killers and violent episodes they came to see as exciting — and pursuable.
As their fascination with violence grew, the brothers allegedly dealt with physical and mental abuse at the hands of their father, Crystal later recounted. David would verbally and physically abuse the brothers, she claimed, and Michael’s defense team would later insist that this abuse, coupled with the brothers’ extreme social isolation, ultimately led to the murders.
“They told us the world was full of people who wanted to hurt us,” Robert would recall during Michael’s trial. “I can kill you anytime I want,” Robert claimed their father said.
Whatever abuse the brothers endured, something else was at work in the summer of 2015. Robert’s fascination with killers — including the Columbine shooters, James Holmes and the 2009 movie Rampage — set his murderous sights beyond his family and into infamy.
In the summer of 2015, Robert Bever worked at a religious call center in town called MicahTek, where he took calls from people looking to pray and receive prayers — eerily reminiscent of Ted Bundy working at a suicide crisis hotline alongside Ann Rule in Seattle.
Robert used his earnings to buy supplies like body armor, knives, and even a small crossbow. As Crystal expressed concern about their growing stockpile, the brothers concocted a sinister plan: they would kill their family, and embark on a cross-country roadtrip to kill as many people as possible. After spending hours studying the lives and results of spree killers and school shooters, the brothers would attempt to make their own mark in the world, and a body count was their point of reference.
Sometime that summer, Robert began ordering guns and ammunition online to complete their arsenal. When Robert received a notification in late July that thousands of rounds of ammo were to be delivered to the Bever residence on July 23, the brothers were forced to enact their plan. When the estimated 1,000 rounds of .45 caliber bullets and 250 12-gauge shotgun shells arrived on July 23, their family couldn’t be around to ask questions or get in the way of their spree.
During Michael’s trial, he admitted that he was sad to have to go through with the attack that day. He planned to spend July 22 with his youngest sister, and claimed that he only went through with the plan after Robert threatened him.
“He was going to do it no matter what,” Michael said. “He said if I didn’t, he would kill me, too.” Michael’s exact role in the attack would be debated years later during his trial, but on the night of July 22, he was a willing participant in the murders.
Whatever plan the brothers had to kill their family fell apart almost immediately. Crystal didn’t die right away, as planned, and when April heard the commotion, she ran to the brothers’ room. They immediately attacked her next, and though Michael initially said he didn’t stab anyone during the attack, the next morning he admitted in police custody that he “got her when she was walking away.”
April would be stabbed 48 times, according to an autopsy, including 18 times in the head and neck. She was alive when police first entered the home some 15 minutes later, but by the time she was taken outside for emergency support, she had passed.
After subduing April, the brothers moved to 12-year-old Daniel, who had heard the attack and locked himself in his room, where he quickly called 911. The heartbreaking one-minute call is mostly muffled, but Daniel manages to explain “my brother’s attacking my family,” before a stifled interaction takes place. In the background, Daniel says “No, Michael,” before the conversation becomes inaudible. At the end of the call, a different, deeper male voice says, “hello?”
Months later, an investigation revealed that Michael tricked Daniel into letting him into his room, telling his younger brother that Robert was attacking the family. Daniel had no way of knowing who all was involved, so he let Michael in before realizing his fatal mistake. “All yours,” Michael was alleged to have said to Robert after Daniel let them in.
In Michael’s murder trial, it was this purposeful deceit that forced his defense team to acknowledge that he wasn’t insane, and was instead strategic in helping Robert kill the family. Like April’s, Daniel’s condition was unknown when the police arrived, but as he was brought outside, he too was deceased.
Michael next went to the first-floor bathroom, where 7-year-old Christopher and 5-year-old Victoria hid from their brothers. Again, Michael’s deceitful pleading persuaded the siblings to open the door, and Michael and Robert both entered. The scene police took in when they entered the bathroom was one of the most horrific many of them had seen on the job, some would later recount. Christopher had been stabbed 6 times and Victoria 18 times, an incomprehensible attack on such small children.
Awaking from his bed, David ran downstairs to confront Robert, who used a large knife to quickly dispatch his father. David received 28 “sharp force” wounds, including 17 in the torso, and 9 in his left hand and arm.
With David on the ground, the brothers then realized Crystal had managed to escape outside, and a bloodied handmark on the inside of the door later revealed it was likely Michael who had brought the sister back inside. Crystal was strangled until the brothers believed she was dead, and shortly after, police began banging on the front door after hearing Crystal’s broken pleas for help.
When officers first arrived on the scene, they immediately saw a “massive amount of blood on the front stoop,” one recalled, and could hear Crystal’s faint cries coming from inside. They made the quick decision to break down the door despite not knowing who or what was still in the home, and found Crystal by the front entry, where she received immediate aid. After pulling April and Daniel to the front, officers continued searching the home room by room, finding Christopher, Victoria and David all deceased.
In an upstairs room, miraculously unharmed, officers found Autumn, the one-year-old whose birthday cake still sat in the refrigerator. The brothers would later admit that they planned to kill her as well, but law enforcement’s quick arrival derailed their plans.
With five victims on the scene, officers now looked for the suspects, which they knew by Crystal’s fragmented pleas were Robert and Michael. They had slipped out the back door after hearing the officers’ knocks at the door, and had shed pieces of body armor leading to a wooded area some 300 yards behind the home. Just after midnight, a K-9 unit followed the trail and took just four minutes to locate the brothers, who were disheveled and hiding in a dry creek bed.
According to arresting officers, Robert surrendered right away, but Michael’s movements in the brush were unclear, prompting one officer to release his canine. The dog attacked Michael’s shoulder and took him down quickly, and in a later review of the scene, officers found a knife Michael may have been carrying at the time he was apprehended.
Photos taken by crime scene investigator Jackie Smithson after the brothers were captured are haunting. Robert’s black shirt is pulled up to reveal white body armor covered in blood stains. His face is marked with dirt and blood, and he makes no effort to hide a thin smirk. Following his encounter with the police dog, Michael’s shirt is nearly ripped off, and he wears a blank, far-away expression. Both brothers are caked in dirt, and a close-up of Michael’s hands in cuffs reveals blood stains on his hands and under his fingernails.
The brothers are arrested and charged with five counts of first degree murder and one count of aggravated assault and battery with a deadly weapon. According to officers, Robert, upon reviewing the brothers’ act, remarked that “six out of seven isn’t bad,” and that he was proud of what they had accomplished.
The brothers were taken into custody at the Broken Arrow city jail and interviewed on the morning of July 23. The Broken Arrow Police Department released video of their conversations with Michael, but Robert’s interrogation was sealed by a court order. It’s suggested that in his interview, Robert glorified the acts and disclosed his desire for media attention.
“He wanted to brag about his plans,” claimed Broken Arrow PD Detective Eric Bentz, who interviewed both brothers that morning.
In Michael’s interview, he crosses his arms, sighs and generally shrinks into his chair. Detective Bentz remarked in Killer Siblings that Michael was small, “like a 13-, 14-, 16-year-old boy would be.” Michael said the brothers had begun planning the attack two months prior, when Robert realized they could buy guns and ammo online without a permit or license. Michael claimed nearly one thousand Glock rounds and 250 shotgun rounds would arrive the day after the murders.
“Well, originally we wanted to kill everyone in the house first,” Michael said in the interview, “and wait for all the packages to show up over the weekend.”
After disposing of their family — their original plan was to kill them, cut them up and store the bodies in the attic —they next planned to take the family GMC Yukon on a murderous rampage toward Washington state, where they’d stop and shoot people at random locations along the way, like gas stations and restaurants.
Eventually Michael revealed that their goal was to become famous and “set a record,” but that it was primarily Robert’s ambitions. Michael claimed he hadn’t stabbed or killed anyone, and only went along with the plan when Robert threatened to kill him as well. But when detectives came back to Michael claiming that Robert told them Michael had participated, the youngest brother then admitted to stabbing his mom from behind.
On July 31, the brothers were formally charged with five counts of first degree murder and one count of assault and battery with intent to kill for attacking Crystal, who by that Friday was in stable condition, though she would require several surgeries over the next few months. Both brothers pleaded not guilty, and despite Michael being a minor, he was charged as an adult. His defense team filed a motion to have him tried as a juvenile, but the appeal failed, and in October 2015, a Tulsa County judge ruled that Michael would indeed be tried as an adult because of the nature of the crime.
A number of delays and motions pushed back the brothers’ potential trial dates, and on June 17, 2016, Robert Bever attempted to hang himself in jail by “tying a sheet around his neck and sleeping boat, propping the boat against the toilet.”
By September, Robert’s defense strategy changed and he accepted a plea deal in order to avoid the death penalty. The deal also ensured Crystal wouldn’t have to go through the emotional distress of a lengthy trial, where she’d likely testify in front of her brother.
“Those children deserve to be able to move on with their lives as best they can without the continued torment of a trial and decades of appeals that a death penalty case would most likely bring,” said Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.
Michael, who was not eligible for the death penalty because of his age, proceeded with his trial and a defense that would focus on the younger brother’s unstable mental health. But in late March 2018, his legal team changed tactics, saying they’d approach the April trial with a more “straight” defense.
On May 9, 2018, after a weeks-long trial and more than five hours of jury deliberation, Michael Bever was found guilty on all counts. “At least half the jurors openly cried as the verdict was read late Wednesday, with a bailiff passing out tissues,” reported Tulsa World. The jury recommended five life sentences with the chance of parole, plus an additional 28-year sentence for his role in Crystal’s attack, but it was unclear if District Judge Sharon Holmes would require the sentences to be served concurrently or consecutively.
If the sentences were served concurrently, Michael would be eligible for parole after 85 percent of his sentences were complete. In Oklahoma, a life sentence is considered 45 years, so Michael would have been eligible for parole in 2053, when he was 54 years old. If the sentences were consecutive, the only way Michael would ever be released from prison would be a successful appeal of his conviction.
On August 9, Judge Holmes sentenced Michael to five consecutive life sentences and 28 years for assaulting Crystal. She gave no explanation for the ruling, though she had requested more time to consider the case and facts before sentencing Michael.
Several of the jurors had penned a letter requesting Michael’s sentences run concurrently so he could be potentially paroled later in life, but whatever argument they made wasn’t compelling enough.
“I think it’s exactly what she needed to do,” said District Attorney Kunzweiler. “I’ve said before: When do you want this guy living next door to you?”
There was no question that Michael fully participated in the Bever family murders, but there were mixed and continued feelings as to whether or not he was simply following orders from his brother on the night of July 22, 2015.
“I don’t understand what happened,” Michael said in a 2018 hearing. “I wake up in the middle of the night and look over thinking that I’m going to go ask one of my little brothers a question. Even three years later, I can’t believe that it actually happened.”
In July 2019, Robert Bever attempted to attack two prison staff members with a “a sharpened instrument,” and in 2020 received an additional life sentence for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Today, Robert is serving his sentence in Joseph Harp Correctional Center, in Lexington, Oklahoma, and Michael is serving his time at Lexington Correctional Center.
Understandably, the Bever family murders were one of the most grim crimes in the history of Broken Arrow. The Bever home sat abandoned — visited often by teenagers looking to explore the house — for several years before it burned down, likely by arson, on March 18, 2017.
The next month, City Councilor Mike Lester raised enough money to purchase the property for the city, and two years later, on March 27, 2019, Broken Arrow opened Reflection Park in memory of the victims and the first responders who reported to the scene.
“We can never erase the tragedy that occurred here, but we are making a statement with Reflection Park that we will not allow evil to define who we are and the high standards we hold as a community,” Lester said.
Where to Watch
- “Bever,” Killer Siblings, Season 1, Episode 4 (aired November 17, 2019)
- Phil Chalmers interview with Robert Bever (November 2021)
Sources & Further Reading
- Corey Jones, Kendrick Marshall, Brothers arrested in killings, Tulsa World, July 24, 2015
- Corey Jones, Samantha Vicent, Girl says brothers killed family, Tulsa World, July 25, 2015
- Corey Jones, Kendrick Marshall, ‘It’s almost impossible to get your head around:’ BA brothers arrested in fatal stabbings of parents, three siblings, The Oklahoman, July 24, 2015
- Samantha Vicent, Arianna Pickard, Plot details emerge, Tulsa World, February 24, 2016
- Juliana Keeping, The Morning Brew: Bever brothers bought arsenal online for family killing spree, The Oklahoman, February 24, 2016
- Samantha Vicent, Corey Jones, Information about Broken Arrow family remains sparse after stabbing deaths, The Oklahoman, July 26, 2015
- Larry J. Siegel, Brandon C. Welsh, Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice, and Law, Cengage Learning, 2017
- Samantha Vicent, Family killings may be on video, Tulsa World, August 22, 2015
- Samantha Vicent, Judge enters not guilty plea for Broken Arrow brothers, The Oklahoman, August 4, 2015
- Justin Juozapavicius, Oklahoma suburb searching for answers after fatal stabbings, Associated Press, August 2, 2015
- Broken Arrow Police Department Arrest and Booking Data for Bever Brothers
- Jessica Remer, Defense seeks to suppress Bever’s statements, prohibit emotion in the courtroom, KTUL, June 7, 2016
- The Oklahoman Editorial Board, Tulsa plea deal reflects challenges of death penalty, The Oklahoman, September 13, 2016
- Samantha Vicent, Michael Overall, Brother hoped family was ‘OK’, Tulsa World, April 24, 2018
- Samantha Vicent, Michael Overall, Michael Bever guilty on all counts, Tulsa World, May 10, 2018
- Clayton Youngman, Amy Jenson, Robert Bever sobs in younger brother’s murder trial: ‘I don’t know what I was thinking’, KTUL, May 4, 2018
- Kelsy Schlotthauer, Broken Arrow family killer Robert Bever gets additional life sentences for attempted attack on prison staff, Tulsa World, November 18, 2020
- Eight years ago: Five members of Bever family murdered in Broken Arrow, Tulsa World, July 22, 2023