New details released after beating death of Millcreek mom, assault of daughter; estranged husband formally charged

Walter Eugene Branzeg. Photo: Salt Lake County; Gephardt Daily

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 7, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — Formal charges have been filed against a Millcreek man accused in the crowbar beating death of his estranged wife and of their teenage daughter, who survived.

Walter Eugene Brantzeg, 54, is now charged with:

  • Aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, in the death of Valerie Sue Brantzeg, 50
  • Attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, in the beating of their 13-year-old daughter, who remains hospitalized
  • Aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony
  • Aggravated cruelty to an animal, a class A misdemeanor

The suspect “used a metal crowbar to cause blunt force trauma to both victims during a domestic dispute,” the probable cause statement says.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill revealed that an autopsy found 28 separate blunt-force trauma wounds to the head of Valerie Brantzeg.

The animal cruelty misdemeanor charge stems from the death of a pet.

“(Brantzeg) also admitted that he killed his cat because no one would be around to feed it,” the indictment says.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill spoke at a news conference Friday to announce the charges, as did Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera.

Gill also broke the news that Walter Brantzeg was being investigated for suspected sexual abuse of his daughter.

Valerie Brantzeg’s sister, Jeanne Long, took the podium next, wiping her eyes.

“I just heard news I hadn’t heard,” Long said, pausing to regain composure.

Valerie Sue Brantzeg. Photo: Facebook

“Valerie did not deserve the treatment she had. She made the ultimate sacrifice for her daughter, trying to keep her from getting beaten. She loved her children with everything she had.

“We didn’t always have the best relationships, but we loved her.”

Long talked about Valerie’s love for her two daughters, one still at home, and for the pets she fostered.

“She fostered kittens mostly, getting up every two hours in the night to feed them. She gave them back when they were ready for adoption. She gave animals and her children more than she had, sometimes.”

Valerie also was known for helping people at the various LDS wards she had been assigned to as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“She stepped up to help others with all that she had,” Long said. “Valerie was in a domestic violence situation. He had her under control. I don’t know what he may have told her to keep her there.”

Walter Eugene Brantzeg. Photo: Salt Lake County

Long described Walter Brantzeg as someone who always had to be right, and said that, in hindsight, he may have been a factor in what drove her and her sister apart.

According to the probable cause statement, police were called to the assault scene, at 3942 S. River Hollow Road, Apartment 426, at 7:05 a.m., Aug. 22.

“Once there, (Unified Police Department) Officer Creno discovered an adult female lying in the entry to the apartment. The adult female was covered in blood, and had severe head trauma. Officer Creno observed that she had agonal breathing and opened her eyes. The adult female, later identified as Valerie Brantzeg, was declared deceased shortly after.”

Officers noted that the door had been forced, and a crowbar covered in blood lay at the entrance. A chemical agent consistent with pepper spray hung in the air.

Witnesses told dispatch they could see the suspect hitting the adult female with a crowbar as she screamed for help, and dispatch operators heard a second female voice calling for help as well, the statement says.

The juvenile, identified in court papers as M.B., was found inside the apartment, with head trauma, but groaning and with labored breaths. M.B. had “deep lacerations and hemorrhages at the points of impact, near the right ear, eyes, and scalp, which extended through the cartilage. She had bruises and other signs of defensive wounds … Radiology identified both subdural hemorrhage and subarachnoid hemorrhage associated with massive blows to M.B.’s head.”

Back at the crime scene, witnesses described the white Chevrolet van and Walter Brantzeg’s license plate. With phone ping information, Brantzeg was located at 9:07 a.m. near 308 E. 4500 South and was taken into custody without incident.

“It was later determined that in the time period between his apprehension and the above described scene, the defendant had made numerous phone calls to a friend, his stepdaughter, as well as local media,” the probable cause statement says.

“In those calls, the defendant admitted to using a crowbar to beat and kill his wife and his daughter. Brantzeg stated that Valerie was turning M.B. against him, and that M.B. wouldn’t talk to him because of it. He stated his actions were the result of a custody dispute.”

Valerie Brantzeg had filed for a temporary separation from her husband on July 31, and on Aug. 16, texted her husband that she intended to seek sole legal custody.

In an interview on Aug. 28, M.B. told a detective that her father was sexually assaulting her, and that he told her “if she told anyone else, he would kill her and separate her family,” the statement says.

Brantzeg is being held in the Weber County Jail.

Long said that anyone who wishes to contribute funds to help in M.B.’s recovery may do so at America West Bank. The memorial account is under Valerie Brantzeg’s name.

Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera, speaking at the news conference, said the Brantzeg domestic abuse case is the worst she has seen in 25 years in law enforcement.

Both she and Gill stated their main purpose in calling the news conference was to urge anyone suffering domestic abuse to call their local law enforcement agency or 911.

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