The man who died Wednesday when his car plunged from the Southwest Spokane Street Swing Bridge was the founder of a local "black metal"...

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The man who died Wednesday when his car plunged from the Southwest Spokane Street Swing Bridge was the founder of a local “black metal” band and was convicted in 1986 of killing his mother.

Police say they are still trying to determine why the man, Kurt Struebing, 39, drove off the bridge.

Witnesses said that just before 1 p.m. Struebing passed several westbound cars waiting at the warning gates of the pivoting bridge that spans the Duwamish River connecting Harbor Island to West Seattle.

His car crashed through a wooden arm and a metal barricade before plummeting about 100 feet to the ground, police said. Struebing died at the scene.

Police said they are not ruling out anything in trying to determine the cause.

On April 7, 1986, the 20-year-old Struebing — the founder of the metal band NME — called 911 to report that he had killed his mother, Darlee Struebing, 53, in her Federal Way home.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder that year.

Court documents indicated that prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed Struebing was mentally ill, although they differed on whether he was criminally insane at the time of the murder.

Both had agreed to recommend an eight-year-sentence, but the judge instead handed down a 12-year prison term to be served in the mentally ill offenders’ unit of the Monroe Reformatory.

After Struebing’s release, the band resumed playing and as recently as October 2004, was playing clubs in Tacoma and Seattle, according to the band’s Web site.

The band’s manager, Lisa Bonner, said yesterday the person she and others knew is not the person from 20 years ago.

In recent years, Bonner said, Struebing had helped organize benefits, in one case for a music promoter badly injured in a car crash, and this year for the Federal Way family of John Sullivan, who played guitar in a metal band and was killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq six months after re-enlisting in the Army.

Bonner said she knew Struebing for three years, as part of Seattle’s metal scene. He contributed to a Web site where people in the metal community chat about anything, she said, but mostly talk about bands. From about 11 a.m. yesterday to midafternoon, about 3,000 postings dealt with Struebing’s death and NME.

Struebing was at first hesitant to participate because of his past, Bonner said.

And about a year and a half ago, when she started talking with NME about becoming the band’s manager, Struebing talked to her about killing his mother.

He told her that if she became NME’s manager, she would undoubtedly get questions. He wanted her to hear the story from him, she said.

The next day, she said, she called Struebing to say she loved him, that she didn’t care what he had done in the past, and that he had clearly changed.

But neither Bonner nor friend Clark Wheeler, known as Clark Chaos in the local metal band The Brain Dead, would disclose what Struebing had told them about killing his mother.

Bonner said Struebing had told her he wanted her to tell people, “That’s the past, and I’ve done my time.”

Struebing and Bonner also were partners in Syren Spawn, which helps fledgling metal bands.

Wheeler, who first came to know Struebing after going to the band’s shows 20 years ago, said he and Struebing went to a metal show a couple of weeks ago to see a Swedish band play.

As usual, Wheeler said, they had a great time. Struebing, he said, was funny, just as he usually was onstage. As with many people in underground metal bands, Struebing had a strong sense of humor usually tongue-in-cheek, said Wheeler.

Struebing, who lived in Des Moines, was married and had a 5-year-old son, and worked as a color printer at a specialty printing company, a co-worker said.

Bonner said she remembers being at Struebing’s house, watching as he beamed while his son played drums and he played guitar.

NME’s album “Unholy Death” is said to be something of a landmark recording in the black-metal category, according to music Web sites.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com