Subscribe for 33¢ / day

The 61-year-old man murdered in his low-income apartment in downtown Bismarck in April was a highly skilled engineer, who struggled with medical issues and alcoholism. 

Greg Comes was a Western-styled guy with a stoic philosophy, said John Metzger, a friend and former colleague.

Have it all, lose it all, figure out what's next.

"We used to joke about it," Metzger said. "But in the end, it wasn't much of a joke."

Comes had a promising start to life. The oldest of three, he was president of his senior class in Belle Fourche, S.D.

He studied at the South Dakota School of Mines and later got a master's degree in geotechnical civil engineering, according to a resume provided by his family. He held numerous jobs in Colorado, Virginia, Texas and Wyoming.

In one role, he traveled the world — Africa, South America — managing radar systems that warned of potential rockfall in mines, Metzger said. In another, he did tunnel monitoring in South Korea for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"He was very good with people," Metzger said. "He was a problem solver."

Greg Comes loved to ski and ride motorcycles, his sister-in-law Carolyn Comes said. He was always messing with computers and once owned an old Corvette.

He was also devout and considered becoming a priest, according to Carolyn Comes.

"He was a Christian for sure. I know he was," said Carolyn Comes, adding he was married twice, but never had kids.

Family and friends pinpoint the start of Greg Comes' troubles differently.

Carolyn Comes said he fell off a horse in the early 1990s. He passed out, and, when he woke up, he didn't know where he was. His mind was never quite as good after that.

Metzger said Greg Comes developed knee problems from working in the field and did not take care of his health. Metzger also described an odd incident in which Greg Comes said he was shot in the shoulder when he lived in Dickinson.

Carolyn Comes said she could never confirm the gunshot story.

"He often had incidents that were difficult to believe," she said.

But family agreed he struggled with drinking for some time. In 2007, Greg Comes was hospitalized for alcohol-related disease, Carolyn Comes said. He went to treatment in 2011, his sister, Marybeth Jaeger, said.

"Even in the last 10 years, he was still getting jobs as an engineer," Jaeger said. "It became worse as he got older."

Greg Comes moved to Dickinson about two years ago to work as an engineer in the oil industry, Carolyn Comes said. After he lost his job, a friend took him to the Ruth Meiers homeless shelter in Bismarck. He got on disability, because of deteriorating eyesight, and moved into the Patterson Place apartments. 

"He lived in a (nearly) million-dollar house in Colorado and ended up in a Section 8 apartment," Metzger said.

Jaeger said she believed Greg Comes' life was improving when he died. 

"It sounded like he was getting back on his feet as best he could," Jaeger said. "At least he was out of the homeless shelter."

Family said they think Greg Comes met Morris Pederson, who is charged with his murder, when he was homeless. They worry Greg Comes' generosity might have been his demise. 

"I could see him opening his door. I could see him befriending someone and letting him in," Jaeger said. 

Reach Caroline Grueskin at 701-250-8225 or at