More than a statistic: Family of homicide victim remembers their loved one

On December 2nd, 2017 Furlow experienced a parents worst nightmare. Her 20 year old grandson, Brandon Irlmeier, who she raised since birth was killed.
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 10:37 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A knock on the door on a December night forever changed the life of Nancy Furlow.

“When two police officers come to your door in the middle of the night, you know it’s bad,” Furlow said. “I was afraid something had happened to Brandon.”

On Dec. 2, 2017, Furlow experienced a parent’s worst nightmare: Her 20-year-old grandson, Brandon Irlmeier, who she raised since birth was killed.

“It’s like an atomic bomb went off within me,” Furlow said. “Everything I understood was about life, and living and afterlife — everything — was destroyed and gone before my body hit the floor because I just fell to the floor.”

Countless other families across the state share a similar nightmare. According to a new report from the Alaska Department of Health, between the five-year spans of 2011-2015 and 2016-2020, Alaska saw a 44% jump in homicides.

The Mat-Su saw the largest relative increase in violent deaths, at more than 70%.

Anchorage and the Southeast region both saw increases of more than 50%. Figures also show that more men than women were victims of homicides from 2011 to 2020.

While the state says this matches trends, for Furlow, the numbers are anything but normal. Behind each number, she said, is a name.

“One of those numbers was Brandon,” Furlow said. “And a family, their lives are forever changed.”

It’s been over five years since Furlow lived out that nightmare. It’s a moment, she said, that stole everything: her life before Irlmeier’s death and after.

Furlow says the pain of his passing is heightened by the fact the homicide is a cold case.

“He had all these places that he wanted to go,” Furlow said.

Furlow keeps the memory of her grandson alive, recounting the boy who, when he first experienced a summer in the Lower 48 was confused and frightened that the sky got dark at night, as a child was confused why the leaves fell off trees in the summer.

Furlow said she would catch her grandson at times trying to put the leaves back on the trees. Her memory of her grandson will always include the way he could make anyone fall off a chair laughing and his protective soul.

And as another day rolls by with no answers, Furlow said, she remains determined and will forever keep seeking answers to what happened that night, and continue to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous men.