03/15/2005: "N.M.E.'s Kurt R.I.P. - News Report from SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER"
Driver who went off bridge had dark past
After murder sentence, however, he turned his life to family and music
By HECTOR CASTRO
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
When Kurt Struebing died this week after his car fell through the open draw span of a bridge, it ended a life that friends said seemed to have been lived by two different people.
Nearly 20 years ago, he killed his mother and was sent to prison. Years later, he became a leading figure in heavy-metal music, a trusted friend and a doting father.
On Wednesday, Struebing, 39, drove his Volkswagen Jetta through two barriers on the Spokane Street Bridge as it opened to let a tug pass on the Duwamish Waterway. The Jetta plunged off the bridge and landed on the ground more than 50 feet below.
Police investigators and motorists who saw the crash were puzzled over why Struebing drove off the bridge.
Friends believe it was simply a horrible accident.
"It's such a loss," said one of them, Lisa Bonner. "It's huge."
Yesterday, Bonner and several of Struebing's other friends gathered at The Olde Shipwreck tavern on Tacoma's Tideflats for an impromptu benefit to help his family.
"Whatever we can do to make it easier for his family, we will," she said.
Other benefit concerts are expected to follow, she said, which makes sense given Struebing's enormous involvement in the local heavy-metal music scene.
After all, Struebing had in recent years been willing to use his music to help others. Last year, he helped to organize a concert to help the family of a soldier and local musician killed in Iraq. He did the same for another musician who lost his home in a fire.
"He was the go-to guy," Bonner said. "We could call him at any time and ask him for anything, and he would say yes."
Struebing was involved in music for the past two decades, forming a band with some high school buddies in the mid-1980s. By 1986, their band, NME, had released three albums.
But in April of that year, Struebing, then 20, was accused of killing his adoptive mother, Darlee Struebing, with a hatchet and a pair of scissors. At the time, friends said, Struebing had been abusing drugs, and even prosecutors believed he was mentally unstable. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 12 years in prison, although prosecutors sought a shorter sentence.
Released early from prison in 1994, it wasn't long before Struebing, a guitarist, began playing music again and the band, NME, reformed.
Critics call their music "black metal." Some music of that genre includes satanic imagery and mentions of the occult. Struebing's band, whose name is pronounced "enemy," had its own Web site: www.nme666.com.
But friends said the music was tongue-in-cheek. "It was just music," said Stephen Austin, who is producer for a heavy-metal program on a cable-access channel.
Bonner, who managed the band in recent years, said Struebing never liked to talk about his past. And for most of his friends, his past didn't matter.
Kriss Blazina, a bassist in the metal band End Theory, said whenever anyone who knew Struebing found out about his criminal record, they usually reacted in disbelief. The man most knew, Blazina said, was kind, generous and funny.
"At the drop of a hat, he'd help anyone out," he said.
Through his job at Reprographics, Struebing was always willing to produce fliers promoting other bands, particularly the ones just starting out.
"He was a very good graphic artist," Bonner said. "One of the best."
Though he practiced with his band every Monday, helped organize benefit concerts and played often himself, Struebing spent his spare time with his wife and son in their Federal Way home.
"He was always with his family," Bonner said.
He taught his son to play drums, and Tim Jennings, guitarist in the band Solace in Black, said Struebing took the boy to a concert recently, and set up a child-sized drum set on stage for him to play.
The crowd was too much for the boy, who ran to his father and clung to his legs. But Jennings said it was clear to anyone how important family was to his friend.
"He loved his kid," Jennings said.
Friends predicted that Struebing's loss will leave a huge hole in the local music scene.
"Everybody respected the hell out of him," Blazina said. "The Kurt that we just lost is the Kurt who should be remembered."