A Ferndale man shot to death along with his toddler son had recently “found his calling” as a teacher of at-risk youth on the Lummi Reservation, friends said Monday, July 20.
Michael David Jordan, 59, met his wife, grade school teacher Erin Lee Agren, while teaching remedial English at the Lummi Nation School. They married in fall 2013.
Agren gave birth to a son a few months later on Valentine’s Day. She had just turned 42. She left her job to raise the child, Miles. This year the family put their two-story home at 5056 Noon Road up for sale, with plans to move to Lynden.
On Sunday their real estate agent, Stephen Mullenix, stopped by with potential buyers for an open house showing at 3 p.m. The doors, however, were locked and barricaded with furniture. Mullenix heard a faint woman’s voice, pleading for help, coming from inside. So he broke in.
Upstairs in a master bedroom he found Jordan and Miles shot to death on the bed. Agren was lying on the floor. She’d suffered a gunshot wound to her left shoulder. She confessed to shooting her husband and son, said Whatcom County Undersheriff Jeff Parks. A small-caliber handgun was found in the home.
Sheriff’s detectives believe the husband and son were killed two to three days before the bodies were found.
Agren, who had started going by Erin Jordan, told deputies she shot herself. She’s expected to survive and remained in satisfactory condition at a local hospital Monday afternoon.
She faces two counts of murder in the first degree, Parks said. Detectives continue to investigate the motive this week. Agren has not been formally charged. Court records suggest she had no criminal history in Washington state.
Michael Jordan graduated from Ferndale High School in 1973. Over the years he lived around the nation — canned fish in Alaska in the late ’70s; took acting lessons in New York; spent a brief time in Vermont when his first wife got an internship; taught English to at-risk youth in the San Francisco projects of Hunters Point — before he returned to Whatcom County to work as a high school teacher on the Lummi Reservation in fall 2007.
At the time Mullenix was also a high school teacher at the Lummi school. He and Jordan became good friends outside the classroom, going bowling and on outings with other teachers. Often at school, he said, Jordan would stay late or come in early to help kids catch up. He would give kids money, Mullenix said, if he knew they wouldn’t have anything to eat over the weekend, or if they couldn’t afford to go to prom.
“He was a caring guy who just gave everything he had,” Mullenix said. “Out there once you earn their respect, you don’t lose it. He genuinely cared about the kids. He wasn’t faking it.”
Jordan bought his two-story home north of Bellingham with his first wife about a decade ago for $450,000, according to county assessor’s records. After an uncontested divorce in 2010, he kept the house.
Agren eventually moved in with him. They had stressors in their marriage like many newlyweds do, Mullenix said, and with the new baby and the home for sale, they were going through major life changes. The real estate agent had been in close touch with the family in the past few months. He never saw any sign, he said, that tragedy would strike like this.
“I was in total shock,” Mullenix said. “Still am. They both loved that child, there’s no doubt in my mind about that.”
Counselors are at the Lummi school this week to talk with grieving students and staff.
“Mr. Jordan cared for many of our students and staff and was a very dedicated teacher,” the tribe’s business council said in a statement Monday. “He was very well respected and beloved by all at the Lummi Nation School.”
A memorial was held at the school late Monday afternoon.
One of Jordan’s closest high school friends was Gary Jensen, now the mayor of Ferndale. They met when Jordan — a “Texas boy,” as another friend called him — moved to Whatcom County in seventh grade. They reconnected when Jordan returned to Whatcom County to teach.
“He’d kind of found his calling,” Jensen said. “He always loved kids. That’s probably why he gravitated toward teaching.”
Jensen said he was a bit surprised but supportive when Jordan, in his late ’50s, said he wanted to become a first-time father. They sat down and calculated how old Jordan would be when his son graduated and reached other life milestones.
Agren was about six months pregnant at the wedding. Jensen was the best man.
“Look at Michael,” Jensen recalled thinking. “He’s never been happier.”
“He was glowing,” Jensen said.
Old friends like Thor Franklin, who met Jordan in Alaska, remembered him for his quick wit, his inability to hold a grudge, and his encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture, music and movies.
“He used to make more mix tapes for his friends than probably anybody on the planet,” Franklin said.
Franklin struggled to put the loss into words.
“You don’t expect this,” he said. “You just don’t.”
The name of the San Francisco housing projects where Jordan taught English was corrected July 21.