LAFAYETTE, Colo. -- A young boy shot his teenage brother, then killed himself in what may have begun as a fantasy associated with the game Dungeons and Dragons, officials said Saturday.
Daniel Ethan Erwin, 16, and Stephen Ray Erwin, 12, were found Friday lying side by side -- the younger boy's legs crossed over his brother's, an investigator said. A .22-caliber revolver was found nearby.
There was some speculation the boys may have been carrying out a fantasy associated with the game Dungeons and Dragons, Police Chief Larry Stallcup said Saturday.
Boulder County Coroner Rodney Ahlburg said the deaths were being investigated as a probable homicide of Daniel by Stephen, and a subsequent suicide by Stephen. Both died of a single gunshot wound to the head with a .22-caliber revolver, Ahlburg said.
'There is no conjecture on how it came about. We wish we could photograph the boy's mind and find out what happened, but we can't,' he said.
Stallcup said the older boy was involved with the game Dungeons and Dragons.
'He was involved to some degree -- I should say, quite heavily - with the Dungeons and Dragons game,' said Stallcup. 'We're investigating that that might have had something to do with it.'
The police chief said the game appeals to very intelligent people who must use their imaginations to manipulate characters and work through a series of mazes to achieve treasures and avoid falling into the dungeon.
'My understanding is that once you reach a certain point where you are the master, your only way out is death,' Stallcup said. 'That way no one can beat you.'
The boys' mother, Sue Irwin, said each of her sons left a note before leaving the house, sometime between 10 p.m. Thursday when she went to bed and 2:30 a.m. Friday, when her husband returned from his job as a factory worker in the suburb about 20 miles north of Denver.
According to Mrs. Irwin, the younger boy's note said only, 'I'm sorry, goodbye,' but Daniel left a longer note saying 'If a man can't have his freedom, he's not a man.'
Stallcup said it was the second time in two years that a death in his jurisdiction was associated with Dungeons and Dragons, a popular game based on medieval mythology in which players assume the roles af various characters.
'About two years ago we had another death here in connection with the game, said Stallcup. 'This time it was a 27-year-old man who was an absolute genius.'
Police began searching for the boys after Mrs. Erwin reported early Friday that her sons had left the family's mobile home and that a gun also was missing. The boys were found after the Erwins' youngest son, Brian, 10, told police the railroad trestle was a favorite hideaway of his older brothers.
Chuck Luna, an assistant principal at Centaurus High School, where Daniel was a ninth grade student, said the older boy was a loner who appeared to have few friends and was 'non-communicative.' Luna said Daniel had a poor school attendance record.
The game attracted national attention five years ago when James Dallas Egbert III, a 16-year-old college sophomore whiz kid and fan of Dungeons and Dragons, disappeared from his Michigan State University residence hall on Aug 15, 1979.
William Dear, a flamboyant Texas private detective hired by Egbert's parents, found him in Morgan City, La., about 30 days later after searching steam tunnels under MSU because some devotees of Dungeons and Dragons were known to act out the game in the dark, twisting tunnels.
Egbert returned to his home in Huber Heights, Ohio, and enrolled in school there without a full explanation of his disappearance being made public. He committed suicide on Aug. 16, 1980.