The three little girls were roasting hot dogs over a fire when a man with a loaded revolver stormed into their secluded Malheur County camp last week.
Their mother, 30-year-old Nampa resident Mandy Boyle, hurried the girls, aged 4, 7 and 10, into a tent and pulled a blanket over them.
She leaned down in the darkness.
“Be very quiet,” she whispered to her daughters.
Within moments, a man was dead, police were on their way and a family camp out on the banks of the Owyhee River turned into a nightmare.
The Malheur County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday identified the victim as 65-year-old Michael Reitler of Orofino, Idaho, but didn’t identify the other individuals involved as it continued to investigate.
While Mandy Boyle declined an interview, her ex-husband Steve shared what she told him about that night. As Steve Boyle talked by phone from his Nampa home, the three girls could be heard in the background.
The girls were laughing and jumping off a couch and the merriment stood in sharp contrast to the scene at the remote campsite.
Sheriff Brian Wolfe has released little new information on the case.
Wolfe said in an initial press release that county dispatch received a call at midnight that two people had been “jumped” by a man with a weapon south of Snively Hot Spring.
Wolfe reported that the Orofino man drove into the camp, a struggle broke out, a gun went off, and the intruder died.
Police searched the tent, a motor home and a car but officials so far have declined to release the normally public affidavit that would describe details of the crime.
Steven Boyle said that his ex-wife and her boyfriend stopped by his house on Sunday, July 8, to borrow a tent to go camping.
“They just wanted to go out of town for a night and have some fun next to the river and barbecue some wieners,” said Boyle.
Boyle said he realized something had gone wrong when he awoke Tuesday morning and glanced at his phone. He said it showed missed calls from his ex-wife. Boyle, a machinist in Nampa, said he kept calling his ex-wife throughout Tuesday.
“Then about 3:30 p.m. my sister called me and said ‘I am bringing you your daughters,’ ” said Boyle.
Boyle said his sister told him about basics about the incident but no details.
Boyle said his ex-wife and her boyfriend showed up at his house later Tuesday and described the encounter at the camp.
Boyle said the duo told him that “this guy drove into the campsite about midnight. The guy got out of the car with a flashlight and a revolver. He was yelling weird stuff like ‘where is my family?’ and ‘I want answers.’ ”
Boyle said his ex-wife’s boyfriend confronted the man after he walked toward the tent.
“That’s when he saw the gun,” Boyle said.
Boyle said according to his ex-wife, her boyfriend then wrapped the man in a bear hug and they struggled.
As they fought, the gun went off. Mandy Boyle then went for help. Police arrived and sealed off the area for much of the following day to investigate.
He said he has not talked to his daughters about the incident.
“I don’t want them reliving it,” said Boyle. “The whole event really shook them up.” He said his daughters did occasionally bring up the episode.
“They’ve said things like, ‘I heard a bad man yelling’ or ‘There is a bad man in the mountains,’ ” said Boyle.
Boyle said he reassured them.
“I said, it’s OK, he is not here anymore. The cops dealt with it,” said Boyle.
He said he still has a lot of questions about what occurred and why.
“I am very upset – upset it happened in front of my children. I am afraid for my children and I want my children here. And I want to know exactly what happened and who this guy was,” said Boyle.
Boyle said he is grateful his ex-wife’s boyfriend protected his children.
“He did what he had to do to make sure they were safe,” said Boyle.
Boyle said his girls are no strangers to camping.
“We are mountain people. They might get scared but if I am there they know they will be safe,” said Boyle.
Reporter Pat Caldwell: firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-473-3377.