November 04, 1985 12:00 PM

The bitter rage that can erupt out of marital crisis is no news in divorce-prone America. But when 28-year-old Enumclaw, Wash, building contractor Raymond Kree Kirkman ran out of things to throw, he emerged as the Rambo of domestic warfare. On the morning of Saturday, Oct. 12, after learning that his estranged wife, Sandra, was seriously considering a divorce and was seeking title to a house and custody of their three children, Kree and one of his workers showed up at Sandra Kirkman’s three-bedroom bungalow with a bulldozer and a backhoe. Sandra and the kids, Tim, 5, Jenny, 3, and Mikael, 1, were away. The day before, Kree had obtained a demolition permit and canceled the insurance on the $85,000, two-year-old house. After breaking in, he removed family pictures, trashed the furniture, shut off the water and came out with Sandy’s two sewing machines, which he systematically smashed into tiny pieces on the concrete walk. Then he and his associate mounted their machines and ripped into the house. When a police officer arrived Kree flashed the demolition permit, and the cop shrugged and left. They continued, grinding most of the house to kindling. “I could not have imagined him doing this,” says a dismayed family friend. “It’s against his whole personality. He’s the farthest thing from a Ramboid.”

But by giving new meaning to the term “homewrecker,” Kree Kirkman became an overnight hero to the macho movement. Arrested a day later when he returned to the site and assaulted a Seattle TV cameraman, Kree soon attracted support. “He’s got a real cheering section out there,” marveled the Enumclaw police headquarters dispatcher, who took calls from as far away as Florida. “They want to set up a defense fund for him.” Held for 72 hours’ psychiatric evaluation, Kree was released on his own recognizance. In taverns and other male gathering places of surrounding King County, which has seen more than 23,000 divorces a year since 1980, sentiment ran in favor of bulldozer vengeance. “They just think it’s wonderful—that he really got even with her,” said Joan Smith, a bartender at Twentieth Avenue Tavern in Seattle’s working-class Ballard district.

Alerted by a neighbor, Sandy Kirkman had returned home to see what damage had been done. A few days earlier, friends had warned her of Kree’s threats to destroy the house. “I kept telling myself, ‘I have to expect the worst,’ ” she says. “Then I rounded the corner and pulled up in front—and it was the worst.” Suspended between tears and disbelief, she moved through the ruins in a daze, salvaging what she could while those neighbors who did not shy away lent a hand. “I guess the low point was when I saw the sewing machines,” she says. “He knew how much I liked them.” Hearing from a friend that Kree was still acting disturbed, Sandra took the children and went into hiding.

Friends were at a loss to explain Kree’s tempestuous actions. He and Sandra met at a Seventh Day Adventist church meeting in 1978 and were married the following year. They seemed a bright, handsome and successful couple, who prospered by buying several pieces of property, building and selling houses. But as the business grew, according to their friends, Kree slipped into workaholism, driving himself from predawn to late at night, seemingly distracted from his family. Last July he told Sandra he no longer loved her, and they agreed to separate. Sandra and the children moved from the family’s trailer home to another house they owned in Enumclaw. The Kirkmans reportedly tried counseling, but Kree fell asleep during the session. At a loss, Sandra went to a lawyer and started divorce proceedings. “All she asked for was the house and the assurance of reasonable child support,” says a friend. “Sandy was depressed, but she just finally wanted to get something going. When she called Kree to tell him what she was doing, he just sort of went bananas.”

“People might stop and ask themselves what they really know about this case before choosing sides,” says attorney Gene Godderis. “This is no movie. It really would be too bad if people get the idea that it’s okay to destroy your spouse’s house if you get a permit. It’s not okay.”

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