Casper wyoming murders

Casper wyoming murders DEFAULT

THE STATE OF WYOMING Plaintiff and Respondent
JAMES V. ALEXANDER Defendant and Appellant.

No. 2799.

Supreme Court of Wyoming.

April 29, 1958.

For the defendant and appellant, the cause was submitted upon the brief of Layman and Stewart, of Casper, Wyoming, and oral argument by Mr. Allen H. Stewart.

For the plaintiff and respondent, the cause was submitted upon the brief of Thomas O. Miller, Attorney General, and William A. Riner, Deputy Attorney General, of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and oral argument by Mr. Riner and Mr. Raymond B. Whitaker, County and Prosecuting Attorney of Natrona County, Casper, Wyoming.

Heard before Blume, C.J., and Harnsberger and Parker, J.J.


Mr. Justice HARNSBERGER delivered the opinion of this court.

Defendant, who was informed against and tried for the first degree murder of Barbara Alexander, his wife, was convicted by a jury and adjudged guilty of murder in the second degree. He was sentenced to serve a term of not less than 45 years nor more than 65 years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary, and to pay a fine of $1,000 plus costs of prosecution amounting to $6,435.56. Defendant appeals from that judgment and sentence.

In preamble to appellant's argument, it is stressed that "because of the sensational elements of the crime defendant was accused of committing, he was denied a fair and unbiased trial". No supporting authority is offered. To recognize substance in such a claim would indicate that the more heinous the crime, the more certain it would be that there was error in trying an accused for its commission.

After the court had overruled defendant's Motion to Quash the Information herein, defendant filed his Plea in Abatement upon grounds that the transcript of testimony given before the justice of the peace at the preliminary hearing and attached to the plea failed to show defendant caused the death of the deceased; premeditated malice; that murder in the first degree had been committed; probable cause for holding defendant to answer to the charge and binding defendant over to the district court on the charge of murder in the first degree in consequence of which the justice of the peace was said to have exceeded her jurisdiction.

The court denied the plea, finding:

"* * * that such a plea does not permit the District Court to review the transcript of proceedings held before the Justice of Peace on the questions of whether or not the offense charged in the complaint had been committed and whether or not there was probable cause to believe the defendant guilty of the offense." Counsel insists this was contrary to the rule set forth in State v. Baish, 32Wyo.136, 230P.678, where it was held that a copy of the transcript of the testimony given at a preliminary hearing could only be brought into the records by a plea in abatement. In so holding the court cited § 7484 C.S. 1920, now § 10-810, W.C.S. 1945, authorizing a plea in abatement when there is a defect in the record shown by extrinsic facts. Upon examining the cases upon the subject, particularly those cited in Annotation, 59 A.L.R., at pages 567 through 579, we find some division of opinion as to the propriety of an examination of the evidence given before a grand jury or at a preliminary examination to determine its sufficiency to warrant a returned indictment or a holding for trial with subsequent information, as is the case of the procedure followed in this case. United States courts, and those of Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania are among those which have held that a complete lack of evidence warrants the dismissal of a grand jury's indictment. Such holdings obviously required an examination of the transcript. California, Mississippi, New Mexico have held that courts will not inquire whether there was any evidence to support the indictment. United States courts, and those of Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Ohio and Virginia are among those holding there is a prima facie presumption the indictment is founded on sufficient evidence. Such holdings seem to imply the transcript of evidence might be examined, else there would be no way to refute the presumption. Otherwise the presumption must be considered conclusive.

In other decisions the United States courts, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia have held mere insufficiency of evidence is not ground for quashing and the court will not inquire. In summary, we might be justified in concluding the court should examine the transcript, when available, at least for the purpose of ascertaining if there was any evidence to warrant the indictment or holding. It is, however, unnecessary to expound the question because our examination of the transcript clearly shows there was ample evidence to warrant holding defendant for trial in the district court. Where a correct judgment, or order, has been made which contains inaccurate or erroneous declarations of law such declarations are harmless error and not grounds for reversal. It is generally held that in actions tried by the court without jury, error cannot be predicated upon such erroneous declarations if the court made proper determination of the case. This leaves us with little doubt but that the correct ruling upon the plea in abatement, even though prompted by the incorrect theory that it was not permitted to review the transcript to ascertain the sufficiency of the evidence, relieves from the charge that reversible error was committed. See 5 C.J.S. Appeal and Error § 1778, p. 1171, § 1849, p. 1334. Thus we hold that the correct ruling is not adversely affected by the wrong reasons given therefor. See 4 C.J.S. Appeal & Error § 153, p. 517; 3 Am.Jur., Appeal and Error, § 1008, p. 563, § 1163, p. 674; 49 C.J.S. Judgments § 71a, p. 189. See also Peterson v. Johnson, 46Wyo.473, 483, 484, 28P.2d487, 489, 91A.L.R.723.

While living in Casper and married to Rose Alexander, who bore him two children, defendant met and brought to live in his small home at Casper, with his wife, himself and their two children, one Barbara Rupe, a married woman, herself the mother of two children who accompanied their mother to live in defendant's home. In a short time defendant divorced his wife Rose who, at defendant's request, signed certain papers presumably having something to do with the divorce, the nature and contents of which not being shown by the record. However, Rose received nothing when defendant was granted the divorce, either as alimony, property settlement, maintenance or custody of her minor children.

Immediately following this divorce, defendant married Barbara, who by that time had also become divorced, but defendant, Barbara, Barbara's two children, Rose, and Rose's two children, a total of seven persons, all continued to live together in the same house, and defendant and Rose continued to sleep in the same room for about a week. About eight months after her marriage to defendant, Barbara gave birth to child and this made a total of eight persons in the home. Finally, Barbara objected to the living arrangements, and defendant sent Rose to her former home in Connecticut, but shortly thereafter she returned to Casper. Defendant gave Rose money while she was away and also sent her the money to enable her to come back to Casper. On her return, Rose went to live in a trailer house immediately behind defendant's home and she stayed there about a week before she went to live in another of defendant's trailer houses. This was situated near the edge of town and defendant, from time to time, brought her foodstuffs and supplies. After a month or so, Rose went to defendant's home and took her two children and kept them with her in the trailer, but later when school started they returned to live in defendant's home. When Barbara learned that defendant was going out to the trailer where Rose was living, the parties quarreled and Barbara threatened to leave defendant.

In June, 1953, defendant raised the water meter in his basement so it could be read from outside the basement window and he also had Barbara sign some blank conveyancing deeds. The last time Barbara was known to have been seen alive by anyone, other than the defendant or possibly by her children who may have seen her later the same evening, was the late afternoon of Saturday, July 18, 1953, when she was at the home of a next door neighbor. When Barbara left there sometime after four o'clock in the afternoon, she agreed to return the next day. That evening about ten o'clock or later both male and female voices and a commotion were heard coming from defendant's home, after which a car resembling defendant's automobile was seen leaving defendant's back yard going fast around the house and down the alley. From that time on defendant kept the basement door nailed shut. The next day defendant brought Rose to his home, after which she continued to live there with defendant, her own and Barbara's three children, until sometime later when the defendant moved to Worland.

On Monday, July 20, 1953, defendant left Casper and did not return until the latter part of August, 1953. Defendant then proceeded to lay a concrete floor in the basement of his home over an area approximately seven feet wide by twenty-four feet long, which up to that time had not been covered with concrete as was all the rest of the basement. Defendant told various persons different stories about Barbara's absence. For instance, he said his wife was dead; she was lying in dry cement and lime; she had left him; she had threatened suicide; he had seen her on the street; he dreamed she had come to him; when he slept in the basement he felt close to her; the police or other authorities were searching for her and he made several other statements tending to account for her disappearance. In the fall of 1953, the defendant said in a letter, "Never do I feel as near my beloved Barbara as when I sleep in my basement". When an acquaintance told him officers thought he had Barbara in a pit he was digging, defendant replied, "I don't have her in the pit, I have her in the basement". Although he had written Barbara's parents on September 5, 1953, that Barbara had taken a vacation from "home and marriage", thereafter he wrote them postcards signed "The Alexanders" and later he went to their home in Montana. Not finding her parents there, he left a note saying, "We have been here but couldn't wait. Sorry. The Alexanders", thus leaving it open to inference that Barbara had been there with him. Defendant also voiced his suspicion that Barbara was "chippying" on him and had said he was going to get even with that "two-timing bitch". Defendant also said, "I am going to get rid of that two-timing bitch", and when told he could not get away with it replied, "I can get away — Oh, I can, I can get away with anything" and repeated "I can get away with anything". When punishing one of the children he said he ought to kill the mother. He boasted of his ability to kill with one blow; said he wanted a skeleton; offered to do away with another person for his tenant, and told about the most perfect crime being committed where the perpetrator was supposed to have buried his wife in concrete. Finally on March 14, 1954, defendant went to the sheriff of Natrona County and told him his wife had been missing "since last August". The sheriff's office commenced making routine missing-person inquiries. Afterward, toward the very last of August, 1954, and while they were making investigation of a theft in the neighborhood of defendant's home, certain developments caused the authorities to further pursue their investigation concerning Barbara.

On September 3, 1954, the officers interrogated defendant who appeared nervous when they asked him as to why he had not sooner reported his wife as missing. They had defendant take them to his home where they met Rose, looked around the house, were shown Barbara's personal effects which were in boxes and lockers, and they went down in the basement where they observed the concrete in the seven by twenty-four foot area above referred to was of a different color and had broken lines in it.

On September 24, 1954, defendant made a statement to officers the highlights of which were that on July 18, 1953, he went to bed at 9:30 p.m. with everything normal between Barbara and himself, and that he awoke the following morning and found Barbara was not in the house so he thought she had gone to church. The investigation continued and on November 29, 1955, at Worland, Wyoming, where the defendant had moved, he gave a written signed statement to the officers in which, among other things, he said: that he had seen Barbara on the street in Casper around Thanksgiving, 1953, and that his children told him they saw her drive by the house after July 19, 1953; that at the time of her disappearance Barbara had anywhere from $800 to $1,000; that when he sold lots which were in his name "her signature was necessary for a clear title because of her being my wife"; and that he had reported Barbara missing to the sheriff's office about eight weeks after her disappearance which last statement was shown to be untrue.

On the afternoon of December 5, 1955, Rose, the defendant and his attorney all went to the Casper police. The record does not reveal all that transpired there, but defendant gave his written consent to the authorities to dig up the basement of his house, and that evening about 10:45 p.m., in the presence of defendant, his attorney, law officers, doctors and a photographer, Rose designated a spot on the newly concreted portion of the basement floor as the place to dig. After outlining that area with boards in accordance with Rose's instructions, the officers proceeded to make an excavation. During this digging, defendant and Rose went outside. Upon removing the concrete the officers found the earth below packed and hard, but they went ahead and dug a hole some four feet long, three feet wide and about eight inches deep. When they did not find anything there, the officers brought Rose and defendant back into the basement and asked them to show a little more definitely where the body was. Rose stood there with a handkerchief up to her mouth, the defendant standing beside her. She looked down at the hole being dug and said, "I can't understand it, she should be there". A complete silence followed, but an officer who was looking at defendant testified his lips were moving and that "he made a waving motion with his right hand in an easterly direction". Rose gave no further instruction and the officers then proceeded to dig two feet to the east of their first hole and uncovered the head of Barbara. Her remains were carefully exhumed and photographs and x-rays were taken of the skull and the skeleton.

An examination of these pictures, as well as of the skeletal remains, disclosed that an impact to the left side of the head with a flat object caused severe multiple fractures of the skull which expert witnesses ascribed as being the cause of death. The examination did not reveal any other injuries. On the left side of the skull the injuries were described as being a stellate fracture with radiating small fractures from it near the junction of the parietal and temporal bones representing a point of impact with rutting fracture. At the junction between the right parietal bone and the right portion of the frontal bone, the suture line had been split apart and the split extended downward and frontward through a portion of the sphenoid bone with a fracture of that bone and an extension of the fracture line backward. Another fracture extended from the base of the nose upwards and backwards. What were said to be secondary fractures appeared on the right side of the skull and their presence was said to be consistent with a single blow to the left side of the skull producing the stellate fracture above described, and these were explained as occurring through transmission of force through the skull from the blow to the left side of the head. There were additional fractures across the base of the skull between the initial fracture on the left side and the secondary fracture on the right side and on the frontal portions of the skull. These were across the base of the skull and were multiple smaller fractures involving various bones.

The only clothing found in the grave was a part of an undergrament, although there was also a small portion of what appeared to be a sheet. Underneath and around the remains, a quantity of neat or pure cement was found in an amount estimated to be approximately 200 to 250 pounds. The only jewelry was a small diamond ring of the type usually taken to be an engagement ring. This was on the finger bones of the ring finger of the left hand. Nothing else of a personal nature was found with the remains, such as money, a purse, etc. A small wood stake, a wooden cross, and a tin can were removed from the excavation and samples of the earth were taken and analyzed, but these items seemed of little if any evidentiary significance unless it was because defendant was shown to have made similar crosses. The hair of the deceased was removed and it was given laboratory examination.

At the coroner's inquest, held over the remains of Barbara, the defendant was present and represented by his attorney. Defendant freely and voluntarily gave testimony. Rose was arrested and charged with the first degree murder of Barbara, and at her preliminary examination defendant again testified freely and voluntarily under the same conditions. Later the complaint charging this defendant with first degree murder was filed and the defendant and Rose remarried. At his trial defendant again gave testimony.

It would serve no good purpose to here recount at length these several testimonies of the defendant nor even to attempt to summarize their substance. We content ourselves with saying that they were so fraught with discrepancies and inconsistencies that the jury would have been justified in discrediting those portions which, if believed, would have been favorable to defendant, and in concluding that defendant was attempting to conceal the fact that he knew Barbara had been killed and interred in his basement. Rose also gave testimony at both the inquest and at defendant's trial to the effect that she had witnessed Barbara's death when she fainted and fell about four feet from a catwalk on defendant's premises and landed on a small concrete platform. Her evidence, like defendant's, was replete with discrepancies and inconsistencies, and furthermore the defendant's evidence and the evidence of Rose was in irreconcilable conflict on some points. This, of course, would have given the jury additional grounds for concluding there was a studied attempt by both defendant and Rose to mislead them as to the facts surrounding Barbara's death and to persuade them to believe that her death was accidental rather than a homicide.

This recapitulation, although showing the evidence to be for the most part circumstantial, was, nevertheless, sufficient to support the jury's verdict that defendant was guilty of murder in the second degree. The type of blow which caused death, as evidenced by the shattered condition of the skull, was of such extreme force and violence that it was not explainable as being the result of the fall Rose described. As defendant's own physician witness testified, a person having such a fall would only receive a fracture at the point of contact without fractures elsewhere. The defendant, by his own testimony, was present in the house where Barbara was last known to be alive and where she was known to be at that time. As far as any credible testimony shows, defendant and deceased were the only adult persons in the house at that time and at the time when both male and female voices and a commotion were heard coming from the house. After that Barbara was not again seen alive.

There had been a quarrel between defendant and Barbara over the defendant's former wife, Rose, and defendant was accusing Barbara of "chippying" on him and had called her "a two-timing bitch". The whole background of sordid conditions and relationships portrayed obvious additional reasons for the existence of ill feeling and provided motive for the defendant to rid himself of one of his women. His conduct in hastily leaving Casper after July 18, 1953, and returning only when there seemed to be no furor or official inquiry about Barbara's disappearance; his prompt laying of concrete over her grave upon his return; his failure to promptly report her disappearance to constituted authorities; his report of seeing her alive on the streets of Casper; his sly suggestion of her being a suicide; his misleading note to Barbara's parents — all tended to establish his definite purpose to conceal and to mislead. These and many other circumstances, intensified by defendant's convenient failure to recall certain important matters while displaying a remarkable memory for other details which defendant evidently deemed to be in his favor, all combined to build a chain of circumstances that was compatible with no other reasonable theory as to the manner in which Barbara came to her death, but that it was at the hand of defendant himself acting purposely and maliciously. This leads us to conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict, judgment and sentence.

We must next examine the record to ascertain if any evidence was improperly received to prejudice the defendant's rights. One of appellant's objections is that there were a number of photographs, introduced in evidence over his objection, which were unnecessarily inflammatory and which, therefore, prejudiced the jury against the defendant. These were some eleven photographs showing different views of exterior portions of defendant's house; eight photographs, showing progressively, the uncovering of the remains; a full-length picture of those remains after their removal from the grave; four close-up photographs of the skull, each taken from a different angle and showing some of the fractures about which the doctors gave testimony; a number of pictures showing interior views of defendant's basement, the concrete floor, its cracks and the excavations made; and x-ray plates showing the fractured skull and the intact condition of other parts of the deceased's body structure. While some of these graphic depictions are not pleasant to look upon, and, in fact, are somewhat gruesome, we cannot say that they were not proper and necessary to be placed before the jury in order that they be enabled to get a proper perspective and an understanding of the testimonies that were given in connection with them. This objection of the appellant must be overruled.

Appellant also complains that defendant did not receive a fair trial because of the prosecuting attorney's statements made in his opening statement. Notwithstanding this criticism, appellant fails to specifically point out the particular remarks which are considered prejudicial but seems content to merely refer to the whole statement. However, we have critically examined the state's opening statement but fail to find any improprieties.

Appellant says state's counsel made unwarranted and prejudicial remarks in front of the jury and our attention is invited to instances of these criticized remarks made in the jury's presence. Their general character is illustrated by the following: "Will the upper row step down and look" — "Would any of the members of the jury like to see any other cement in there? If they would we could open the whole thing up but to save time we thought we got a representative bag of it" — "Can the jury see certain portions of the Exhibit?" — Is there anyone who would like to see?" — "Can the jurors see this?" — "Can you hear the witness?" With the exception of the last quote, we note there is nothing in the remark to indicate if it was addressed to the court or directly to the jury. In any event, while we disapprove of any counsel addressing the jury except at proper times when it is expected, none of the remarks nor the fact of their being made in the jury's presence was prejudicial to the defendant. While a few other remarks by state's counsel are objected to as improper, we consider those objections to be entirely without merit, except perhaps in one instance when defense counsel was cross-examining a state's witness who had testified that Barbara, while talking to the witness and the witness' husband, had been uneasy. Defense counsel then asked, "What do you mean uneasy?" To this question the witness replied, "Well, while I was there she told my husband and I that he [the defendant] had threatened to kill her." Defense counsel moved to strike the answer as not responsive whereupon the prosecutor said, "One moment, your Honor, he asked for it and he got it". The court ruled the answer of the witness was responsive, but directed the jury to disregard the prosecuting attorney's remark and told them that they should not let it affect their consideration in any way. It is even doubtful that the remark was objectionable at all, as it was proper for counsel to state his reason for contesting the defense motion to strike, and the ruling of the court indicates it considered the reason given to be valid, inasmuch as the witness' answer was permitted to stand. However, as the jury was instructed to disregard the remark and not to let it affect their consideration in any way, no prejudicial error resulted.

Other objections are made that certain evidence admitted was without relevance or materiality. We consider that evidence to have been relatively unimportant and its reception to be without prejudice to the defendant. In cases which altogether depend upon circumstantial evidence or which in large part rest upon circumstances, considerable latitude must be given and the admission or rejection of that type of evidence must be left largely to the sound discretion of the trial court. We do not find that discretion was at all abused and, consequently, overrule those objections.

The complaint that defendant was subpoenaed and required to testify at the preliminary hearing of Rose Alexander and then after a few preliminary questions was ruled to be a hostile witness is inaccurate, as the record shows it was only after defendant had given testimony represented by twenty-five pages of the transcript of evidence given at that hearing that the justice ruled defendant to be a hostile witness. The responses, theretofore made by defendant to questions propounded to him, justified that ruling.

Appellant further claims error because the state's evidence tending to show defendant's efforts to conceal true facts and mislead the jury concerning Barbara's disappearance incidentally involved references to the enclosure of the alleged catwalk. Because of this it is said the state anticipated the defense that Barbara died as a result of a fall from a catwalk, and, therefore, it was error to permit the state to give further evidence about the catwalk on rebuttal to show the alleged catwalk was not completely enclosed on July 18, 1953, but was exposed to view due to prior removal of one side of the enclosure. Our attention is called to Russell v. State, 19Wyo.272, 284, 116P.451, 454, where it is said:

"The general rule is that, if the plaintiff sees fit to call any evidence in anticipation of a defense, he should be required to then produce all of his evidence on that subject, and should not be allowed to split his evidence in two parts, and to give one part in chief and the other in rebuttal. Orderly procedure in the trial would require this. However, the rule is not an arbitrary one, and the trial court is allowed considerable latitude in the exercise of its discretion in that respect. * * *"

There are two things which relieve the court's action from error. First, the evidence received was not given in anticipation of any defense, but, in connection with other evidence, was legitimate proof of an element material to the establishment of the state's theory. Second, as the final sentence of the above quote indicates, the court is allowed considerable latitude in admitting or rejecting rebuttal evidence. In 6 Wigmore on Evidence, 3d ed., § 1873, pp. 510-512, difficulty of discriminating between an occasion when rebuttal testimony may or may not be properly received is pointed out and attention is called to the possible unfairness to an opponent who has justly supposed that the case in chief was the entire case which he had to meet. The appellant's position here is just that. In other words, it is claimed that because the state's case in chief included previous testimonies of defendant and Rose which purported to describe an enclosure around the alleged catwalk, the defense was lulled into belief that the state accepted those representations as true with the result the defense offered no further proof concerning the existence of the enclosure on July 18, 1953, although the truth of that fact was necessary to complete the defense upon which the defendant was to rely. The point, however, is not well taken primarily because there was no issue concerning the matter until the fact was offered as part of the defense and secondarily because the testimony tended to prove the state's theory of concealment rather than to anticipate defense. At page 517 of Wigmore's same volume, it is flatly stated the court's determination of what is properly rebutting evidence should be respected and, furthermore, says that such rebuttal is always admissible to impeach, and, we add, to contradict the defendant, opponent or his witnesses.

The additional claim of error in not allowing defendant surrebuttal evidence is also not well taken because it could only amount to adding further and cumulative evidence to facts already testified to by a defense witness and which it was his opportunity to emphasize when he offered his defense in chief. We, therefore, agree with Wigmore's summation of the manner when he wrote at page 517:

"In general, such discretionary variations should be liberally dealt with; for nothing can be more irrational or more unjust than to apply the judicial lash of a new trial to errors of trivial importance."

Defendant's offer to prove upon surrebuttal that on July 18, 1953, there were certain variations in the area where the alleged catwalk was supposed to have been from the conditions depicted by one of state's exhibits does not indicate or specify why that evidence could not have developed on cross-examination or in presenting his defense in chief. While it is true, as explained by Wigmore, supra, § 1874, pp. 517-518, and 1 Chamberlayne, The Modern Law of Evidence, § 383, pp. 516-517, that new facts brought out on rebuttal may properly be met by surrebuttal evidence, that rule does not permit surrebuttal merely to supply evidence which could have been given in chief or to cumulate additional evidence or to fortify evidence already given, or to supplement such evidence because it has been impeached upon rebuttal. The description, type, size, location, condition and relation to other matters of alleged physical conditions, which in this case was the enclosure of the alleged catwalk, were all matters associated with the accused's defense and were testified about by defense witnesses. Defendant's assumption that the state would accept the defense description of these matters as being accurate did not prevent that testimony being contradicted upon rebuttal, yet on the other hand, when such contradicting rebuttal testimony is given, the right to challenge it by surrebuttal does not always result, but its allowance rests in the sound discretion of the court. 6 Wigmore on Evidence, 3d ed., § 1873, pp. 516-517.

The case here is not one where the prosecution sought to establish the existence of, or any fact relating to, the alleged catwalk. Such evidence was wholly unnecessary to the state's case. It was only when the defendant sought to account for Barbara's death as being an accident that the existence of the alleged catwalk's enclosure became important as an issue. Defendant's evidence was that the catwalk was enclosed. The state's evidence indicated that it was not.

Anticipating the defense, or purposing to anticipate the defense, should not be taken to mean every introduction by the prosecution of evidence which merely touches some phase of a matter which is later disclosed as incident to the defense. To anticipate the defense has reference to the prosecution's introducing in its case in chief evidence calculated and intended to meet, contradict, explain, repel, counteract, disprove, modify or overcome evidence which is expected to be offered and relied upon as a defense to the crime charged. The references to the catwalk which occurred in presentation of the state's case was not evidence calculated or intended to meet, contradict or overcome any defense offered. See 23 C.J.S. Criminal Law, § 1049, p. 449.

Appellant claims error because of the denial of his offer of proof which was to be made by propounding a hypothetical question to a medical expert and based upon testimony given by Rose as to the manner in which Barbara met her death. During his examination of the witness, defense counsel stated:

"We wish to present a hypothetical question to the witness to this effect: That the deceased was standing on a catwalk or platform 4 feet above the ground and fell from this catwalk and dislodged bricks from a rock pile adjacent to the catwalk — * * * brick pile, yes; after falling, the bricks — one or three or more — no, one or three of weights from 7 pounds to 11 pounds struck the decedent on the left side of the skull of the deceased — whether or not this fall together with the bricks falling from a height of approximately 4 feet could have caused the fracture and the multiple fractures appearing in Exhibits 32, 33, 34 and 35?" [The exhibits referred to being photographs of deceased's skull.]

The court volunteered:

"I think it is speculation by reason of assuming into the picture that which isn't supported; that is the striking of bricks on the head of this girl."

The defense then inquired, "The offer of proof is rejected?", to which the court replied, "That is right". It is evident that the court's use of the phrase "into the picture" was not a reference to either or any of the photographic exhibits, but rather referred to the premise assumed by the question. As no evidence, either circumstantial or direct, had been given which even tended to prove that the bricks did strike the head of the deceased, the court's ruling was correct inasmuch as the hypothetical question assumed facts not in evidence.

Error is claimed because the court rejected a defense offer to prove defendant had adequate funds to make a loan of money. We fail to recognize any probative value in such evidence. Although counsel suggested its relation to the $800 to $1,000, which evidence had shown the deceased to possess at the time of her disappearance, the offered evidence would not in the least account for those monies.

During the cross-examination of a state's witness testifying on rebuttal in connection with an exhibit purporting to show the alleged catwalk area as described by the defendant to officers, defendant offered to prove the biggest part of the area involved had been excavated so that defendant was left without land marks to guide him when he gave the description. Such proof, if received, would have been valueless to prove there was any inaccuracy in the description given and would have been of no probative value. The refusal of the offer was, therefore, without prejudice to defendant.

One instruction offered by defendant and refused by the court was as follows:

"You are instructed that where the sole witness of a transaction charged as a crime has testified, that testimony cannot be arbitrarily rejected and, if the credibility of the witness has not been impeached and her testimony is not improbable and is not inconsistent with circumstances shown but is reasonably consistent therewith, then her testimony should be accepted."

Appellant says that in Eagan v. State, 58Wyo.167, 128P.2d215, this court adopted the rule:

"The defendant being the sole witness to the transaction charged as a crime, her testimony must be accepted as true, as it * * * is not improbable, and is not inconsistent with the facts and circumstances as shown, but is reasonably consistent therewith * * *."

and reiterated the same in State v. Helton, 73Wyo.92, 276P.2d434. The above quote is not taken from the Eagan case, but does appear in the Helton opinion at page 114 in 73Wyo.92, and at page 442 in 276P.2d434, where reference is made to the consideration which should be given statements made by an accused explaining testimony relied on by the state to prove a necessary element of the crime charged. When taken out of context, as counsel now attempts to do, it is misleading and inaccurate. The full statement in the Helton case was:

"* * * It [the state] did, however, elect to rely upon the testimony of the defendant to prove necessary elements of its charge and, under the law of this state, as announced in Eagan v. State, 58Wyo.167, 198, 128P.2d215, 226, the defendant being the sole witness to the transaction charged as a crime, her testimony must be accepted as true, as it `* * * is not improbable, and is not inconsistent with the facts and circumstances shown, but is reasonably consistent therewith * * *.'"

State v. Helton, 73Wyo.92, 114, 276P.2d434, 442.

In the case before us, the witness was not the accused and the state had not relied upon the witness to prove any necessary element of the crime charged. In fact, the state's evidence in the case at bar was opposed to the testimony of the witness who was claiming to have witnessed the death of Barbara. The offered instruction was, therefore, completely misleading, did not state the law and was properly refused.

Another alleged error is that the court refused to give some six instructions which defendant offered. It is unnecessary to set these forth at length or recite their substance. Examination satisfies us that the matter dealt with in the refused instructions is sufficiently covered by instructions given. Similarly, defendant complains of certain instructions given. A major criticism is that two of the instructions conclude with statements "you should find him guilty" and "you should find the defendant guilty". While care must always be taken not to overemphasize either guilt or innocence in the instructions, we must hold that defendant's criticism is not warranted in this case because we must assume the jury did as they were directed, and in considering all of the instructions as a whole, they gave proper weight to other instructions relating to innocence.

Appellant also says the court failed to provide a competent court reporter. Although appellant confesses there are no apparent prejudicial defects in the record, counsel insists there are evidences of an incomplete record. The statement is ambiguous and we do not agree.

Finally, it is advanced that the costs have been improperly assessed. The schedule of costs was made prior to our decision in Arnold v. State, Wyo., 306P.2d368, which is now, of course, controlling. This requires that the costs be reassessed to conform with that pronouncement. The judgment and sentence in this case are affirmed, with the exception of costs taxed and the case is remanded with direction to properly reassess the costs and for execution of the judgment and sentence as so modified.



On June 10, 1958, the Court denied a rehearing without a written opinion.


Crime rate in Casper, Wyoming (WY): murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, thefts, auto thefts, arson, law enforcement employees, police officers, crime map

According to our research of Wyoming and other state lists, there were 322 registered sex offenders living in Casper, Wyoming as of October 18, 2021.
The ratio of all residents to sex offenders in Casper is 185 to 1.

Violent crime rate in 2019
U.S. Average:205.8

Violent crime rate in 2018
U.S. Average:208.2

Violent crime rate in 2017
U.S. Average:215.2

Violent crime rate in 2016
U.S. Average:216.3

Violent crime rate in 2015
U.S. Average:208.5

Violent crime rate in 2014
U.S. Average:200.7

Violent crime rate in 2013
U.S. Average:204.3

Violent crime rate in 2012
U.S. Average:214.5

Violent crime rate in 2011
U.S. Average:214.1

Violent crime rate in 2010
U.S. Average:223.2

Violent crime rate in 2009
U.S. Average:238.0

Violent crime rate in 2008
U.S. Average:252.4

Violent crime rate in 2007
U.S. Average:259.7

Violent crime rate in 2006
U.S. Average:264.1

Violent crime rate in 2005
U.S. Average:258.9

Violent crime rate in 2004
U.S. Average:256.0

Violent crime rate in 2003
U.S. Average:262.6

Violent crime rate in 2002
U.S. Average:272.2

Property crime rate in 2019
U.S. Average:178.6

Property crime rate in 2018
U.S. Average:190.2

Property crime rate in 2017
U.S. Average:206.4

Property crime rate in 2016
U.S. Average:216.6

Property crime rate in 2015
U.S. Average:221.5

Property crime rate in 2014
U.S. Average:230.8

Property crime rate in 2013
U.S. Average:250.4

Property crime rate in 2012
U.S. Average:267.3

Property crime rate in 2011
U.S. Average:273.5

Property crime rate in 2010
U.S. Average:276.4

Property crime rate in 2009
U.S. Average:285.6

Property crime rate in 2008
U.S. Average:302.2

Property crime rate in 2007
U.S. Average:309.2

Property crime rate in 2006
U.S. Average:317.3

Property crime rate in 2005
U.S. Average:322.3

Property crime rate in 2004
U.S. Average:327.4

Property crime rate in 2003
U.S. Average:334.1

Property crime rate in 2002
U.S. Average:336.9
Murders per 100,000 population
Rapes per 100,000 population
Robberies per 100,000 population
Assaults per 100,000 population
Burglaries per 100,000 population
Thefts per 100,000 population
Auto thefts per 100,000 population
Arson per 100,000 population

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2019, including police officers: 144 (97 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.68
Wyoming average:2.39

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2018, including police officers: 136 (101 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.74
Wyoming average:2.53

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2017, including police officers: 125 (88 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.47
Wyoming average:2.11

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2016, including police officers: 129 (93 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.52
Wyoming average:2.58

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2015, including police officers: 116 (96 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.56
Wyoming average:2.59

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2014, including police officers: 133 (87 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.43
Wyoming average:2.66

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2013, including police officers: 146 (98 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.67
Wyoming average:2.81

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2012, including police officers: 137 (95 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.67
Wyoming average:2.55

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2011, including police officers: 126 (84 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.51
Wyoming average:2.72

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2010, including police officers: 102 (88 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.55
Wyoming average:2.52

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2009, including police officers: 110 (94 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.72
Wyoming average:2.69

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2008, including police officers: 124 (94 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.76
Wyoming average:2.65

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2007, including police officers: 102 (86 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.64
Wyoming average:2.72

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2006, including police officers: 133 (91 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.83
Wyoming average:2.57

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2005, including police officers: 105 (88 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.77
Wyoming average:2.58

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2004, including police officers: 97 (82 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.65
Wyoming average:2.54

Full-time law enforcement employees in 2003, including police officers: 94 (80 officers).
Officers per 1,000 residents here:1.61
Wyoming average:2.65

Full-time Law Enforcement Employees in Casper, WY
Full-time Law Enforcement Employees
Full-time Law Enforcement Employees - Officers
Full-time Law Enforcement Employees - Civilians

Zip codes:82609.

  1. Dial body wash
  2. 300 sq ft pool filter
  3. Labor unions quiz quizlet
  4. Lions 2015 draft picks

Wyoming Man Charged with ‘Especially Disturbing’ Murder of Missing Father of Two Who Was Stabbed at Least 25 Times

Justin Armando Marquez appears in a mugshot

A Wyoming man accused of killing a friend and fellow Cowboy State resident in an “especially disturbing” fashion had his bail set at half a million dollars cash by a judge on Tuesday.

Justin Armando Marquez, 40, stands accused of murder in the second degree over the death of 36-year-old Ryan Schroeder.

The defendant was formally charged before Natrona County Circuit Court Judge H. Steven Brown during an initial appearance hearing in which the only points of contention were bond issues.

An Assistant Natrona County District Attorney called Schroeder’s murder “brutal and gruesome” and pleaded with the court for $1 million cash bail. In response, defense attorney Joshua Taylor noted that his client has no previous violent crimes on his record, that he owns property in the county, and that he has several family members who live in the community, according to Casper, Wyo.-based Oil City News.

Schroeder was reported missing by his family to the Casper Police Department on July 6. The victim’s mother told detectives she last heard from him on June 24 and that she was unable to find anyone else who had seen or spoken with her son since June 26. His two minor children also hadn’t heard from him in some time. According to police interviews, the consensus was that Schroeder was planning to travel to Denver, Colorado around the last time he was seen alive.

His body was discovered by a four-strong task force of investigators from local and county law enforcement agencies on Aug. 30. The decomposed corpse was identified as Schroeder’s the next day.

“The Casper Police Department, with the assistance of the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office, has recovered the body of local resident Ryan Schroeder in rural Natrona County and is investigating his death as a homicide,” police said in a press release at the time of the discovery. “The body, discovered in rural Natrona County, was located after a nearly two-month investigation into the disappearance of Schroeder.”

Officers with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation and Natrona County Search and Rescue also helped with the search.

According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by local news radio station KTWO, there were at least 25 stab marks on Schroeder’s shirt near his upper chest and upper back regions. Multiple stab wounds had penetrated the victim’s rib and sternum.

Detectives allege that a review of Schroeder’s phone records showed that he and Marquez had called each other a combined 67 times since June. The last phone call Schroeder ever had, the affidavit claims, was with Marquez. The defendant allegedly told police that Schroeder texted him asking to hang out while he was in Denver but insisted those plans never came to fruition. Marquez also said that he hadn’t heard from the dead man since leaving Denver.

Other witnesses contradicted that–saying the pair “partied” together during the night of June 25 through the morning of June 26. One source allegedly told police Schroeder and Marquez were arguing with each other like “an old married couple” on the night in question.

After interviews, police obtained a search warrant for Marquez’s maroon 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe–which was being kept in a Casper storage facility at the time. Detectives claim to have come across a bloody scene inside the car. Tell-tale splashes of red were found on the driver’s side window, the front windshield, on and surrounding the front passenger seat, the driver’s seat and the car’s center console, police say. A bottle of window cleaner was also allegedly found inside the car with streaks still lingering on the passenger’s side window.

“The distinct smell of decomposition was noted inside the vehicle,” the affidavit alleged.

Lab tests subsequently determined with a high level of confidence that the blood in the vehicle belonged to Schroeder.

A separate vehicle registered to Marquez was then placed under electronic surveillance, the affidavit says, and eventually made “significant” stop at a “specific coordinate” during a loop of multiple highways and roads in the area. That stop, police claim, led to a large-scale search of the Coal Mountain Road area where a bloody towel was discovered. The towel allegedly reeked of decomposition. Police say the towel immediately led to the discovery of Schroder’s body and sunglasses as well as a burn barrel containing a 5XL blue polo shirt, a wooden dowel, a tan piece of fabric, leather belt remnants, drawstrings from a garbage bag and a Walmart receipt.

Marquez was taken into custody on Sept. 3.

Ryan Schroeder

Image via Facebook screengrab

An obituary for Schroeder described the victim in detail:

Ryan Mitchell Schroeder was tragically taken from this Earth far too early in life at the age of 36.

He was born and raised in Casper, WY to Brian and Kerri Schroeder on September 15, 1984.

Ryan loved sports. He grew up playing baseball and even spent a few years coaching the game. His enjoyment for the game continued into his adult life as he participated in softball leagues every summer. He was an avid football fan, with a special place in his heart for the Denver Broncos.

He also enjoyed the outdoors and spent countless hours fishing, hunting, and camping.

He was such an inquisitive person who loved to read, write, and learn. He was constantly trying to educate himself on various subjects. In the last few years, his thirst for knowledge grew stronger to the point that he spent much of his time searching for a deeper understanding of the universe and studying the word of God.

Ryan was a very talented drywall finisher. He took drywall to the next level with his artistic design. Many commercial businesses and residential homes are graced by Ryan’s work.

[image via Casper Police Department]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Wyoming gas station murder

Matthew Shepard

Gay American murder victim

"Matt Shepard" redirects here. For the Detroit, Michigan based TV commentator, see Matt Shepard (sportscaster).

Matthew Wayne Shepard (December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998) was a gay American student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten, tortured, and left to die near Laramie on the night of October 6, 1998.[1] He was taken by rescuers to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he died six days later from severe head injuries received during his beating.

Suspects Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson were arrested shortly after the attack and charged with first-degree murder following Shepard's death. Significant media coverage was given to the murder and what role Shepard's sexual orientation played as a motive for the commission of the crime.

The prosecutor argued that McKinney's murder of Shepard was premeditated and driven by greed. McKinney's defense counsel countered by arguing that he had intended only to rob Shepard but killed him in a rage when Shepard made a sexual advance toward him. McKinney's girlfriend told police that he had been motivated by anti-gay sentiment but later recanted her statement, saying that she had lied because she thought it would help him. Both McKinney and Henderson were convicted of the murder, and each of them received two consecutive life sentences.

Shepard's murder brought national and international attention to hate crime legislation at both the state and federal level.[2] In October 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (commonly the "Matthew Shepard Act" or "Shepard/Byrd Act" for short), and on October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law.[3]

Following her son's murder, Judy Shepard became a prominent LGBT rights activist and established the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Shepard's death inspired films, novels, plays, songs, and other works.


Matthew Shepard was born in 1976 in Casper, Wyoming; he was the first of two sons born to Judy (née Peck) and Dennis Shepard. His younger brother, Logan, was born in 1981. The two brothers had a close relationship.[4] Shepard attended Crest Hill Elementary School, Dean Morgan Junior High School, and Natrona County High School for his freshman through junior years. As a child, he was "friendly with all his classmates", but was targeted and teased due to his small stature and lack of athleticism.[4] He developed an interest in politics at an early age.[4]

Saudi Aramco hired his father in the summer of 1994, and Shepard's parents subsequently resided at the Saudi Aramco Residential Camp in Dhahran. During that time, Shepard attended the American School in Switzerland (TASIS),[5] from which he graduated in May 1995. There, he participated in theater, and took German and Italian courses. He then attended Catawba College in North Carolina and Casper College in Wyoming, before settling in Denver, Colorado. Shepard became a first-year political science major at the University of Wyoming in Laramie with a minor in languages,[4] and was chosen as the student representative for the Wyoming Environmental Council.[2]

Shepard was an Episcopalian and once served as an altar boy in the church.[6] He was described by his father as "an optimistic and accepting young man who had a special gift of relating to almost everyone. He was the type of person who was very approachable and always looked to new challenges. Shepard had a great passion for equality and always stood up for the acceptance of people's differences."[7] Michele Josue, who had been Shepard's friend and later created a documentary about him, Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine, described him as "a tenderhearted and kind person."[8]

In 1995, Shepard was beaten and raped during a high school trip to Morocco.[9][10] This caused him to experience depression and panic attacks, according to his mother.[9] One of Shepard's friends feared that his depression had driven him to become involved with drugs during his time at college.[9] Multiple times, Shepard was hospitalized due to his clinical depression and suicidal ideation.[4]


On the night of October 6, 1998, Shepard was approached by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie; all three men were in their early 20s.[11][9] McKinney and Henderson offered to give Shepard a ride home.[12][13] They subsequently drove to a remote rural area and proceeded to rob, pistol-whip, and torture Shepard, tying him to a barbed-wire fence and leaving him to die. Many media reports contained the graphic account of the pistol-whipping and his fractured skull. Reports described how Shepard was beaten so brutally that his face was completely covered in blood, except where it had been partially cleansed by his tears.[10][14][15]

The assailants' girlfriends testified that neither McKinney nor Henderson was under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time of the attack.[16][17] McKinney and Henderson testified that they learned of Shepard's address and intended to steal from his home as well. After attacking Shepard and leaving him tied to the fence in near-freezing temperatures, McKinney and Henderson returned to town. McKinney proceeded to pick a fight with two men, 19-year-old Emiliano Morales and 18-year-old Jeremy Herrara. The fight resulted in head wounds for both Morales and McKinney.[18] Police officer Flint Waters arrived at the scene of the fight. He arrested Henderson, searched McKinney's truck, and found a blood-smeared gun along with Shepard's shoes and credit card.[9] Henderson and McKinney later tried to persuade their girlfriends to provide alibis for them and help them dispose of evidence.[19]

Still tied to the fence, Shepard was in a coma eighteen hours after the attack when he was discovered by Aaron Kreifels, a cyclist who initially mistook Shepard for a scarecrow.[20] Reggie Fluty, the first police officer to arrive at the scene, found Shepard alive but covered in blood. The medical gloves issued by the Albany County Sheriff's Department were faulty, and Fluty's supply ran out. She decided to use her bare hands to clear an airway in Shepard's bloody mouth. A day later, she was informed that Shepard was HIV-positive and that she might have been exposed to the virus due to cuts on her hands. After taking an AZT regimen for several months, she tested negative for HIV.[21] Judy Shepard later wrote that she learned of her son's HIV status while he lay dying in the hospital.[22]

Shepard was transported first to Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie before being moved to the more advanced trauma ward at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado.[23] He had suffered fractures to the back of his head and in front of his right ear. He experienced severe brainstem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate his heart rate, body temperature, and other vital functions. There were also about a dozen small lacerations around his head, face, and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate. Shepard never regained consciousness and remained on full life support. While he lay in intensive care and in the days following the attack, candlelight vigils were held around the world.[24][25][26]

Shepard was pronounced dead six days after the attack at 12:53 a.m. on October 12, 1998.[27][28][29][30] He was 21.[11]

Arrests and trial

McKinney and Henderson were arrested and initially charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, and aggravated robbery. After Shepard's death, the charges were upgraded from attempted murder to first-degree murder, which meant that the two defendants were eligible for the death penalty. Their girlfriends, Kristen Price and Chasity Pasley, were charged with being accessories after the fact.[29][31] At McKinney's November 1998 pretrial hearing, Sergeant Rob Debree testified that McKinney had stated in an interview on October 9 that he and Henderson had identified Shepard as a robbery target and pretended to be gay to lure him out to their truck, and that McKinney had attacked Shepard after Shepard put his hand on McKinney's knee.[31] Detective Ben Fritzen testified that Price stated McKinney told her the violence against Shepard was triggered by how McKinney "[felt] about gays".[31]

In December 1998, Pasley pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.[32] On April 5, 1999, Henderson avoided going to trial when he pleaded guilty to murder and kidnapping charges. In order to avoid the death penalty, he agreed to testify against McKinney and was sentenced by District Judge Jeffrey A. Donnell to two consecutive life terms. At Henderson's sentencing, his lawyer argued that Shepard had not been targeted because he was gay.[32]

McKinney's trial took place in October and November 1999. Prosecutor Cal Rerucha alleged that McKinney and Henderson pretended to be gay to gain Shepard's trust. Price, McKinney's girlfriend, testified that Henderson and McKinney had "pretended they were gay to get [Shepard] in the truck and rob him."[12][33] McKinney's lawyer attempted to put forward a gay panic defense, arguing that McKinney was driven to temporary insanity by alleged sexual advances by Shepard. This defense was rejected by the judge. McKinney's lawyer stated that the two men wanted to rob Shepard but never intended to kill him.[9] Rerucha argued that the killing had been premeditated, driven by "greed and violence", rather than by Shepard's sexual orientation.[34] The jury found McKinney not guilty of premeditated murder but guilty of felony murder and began to deliberate on the death penalty. Shepard's parents brokered a deal that resulted in McKinney receiving two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.[35] Henderson and McKinney were incarcerated in the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins and were later transferred to other prisons because of overcrowding.[36] Following her testimony at McKinney's trial, Price pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor interference with a police officer.[37]

Subsequent reporting


Shepard's murder continued to attract public attention and media coverage long after the trial was over. In 2004, the ABC News news program 20/20 aired a report that quoted statements by McKinney, Henderson, Price, Rerucha, and a lead investigator. The statements alleged that the murder had not been motivated by Shepard's sexuality but was primarily a drug-related robbery that had turned violent.[9] Price said she had lied to police about McKinney having been provoked by an unwanted sexual advance from Shepard, telling TV journalist Elizabeth Vargas, "I don't think it was a hate crime at all."[9][38] Rerucha said, "It was a murder that was once again driven by drugs."[9]

The Book of Matt

Main article: The Book of Matt

Stephen Jimenez, the producer of the 2004 20/20 segment, went on to write a book, The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, which was published in September 2013. The book said that Shepard and McKinney—the killer who inflicted the injuries—had been occasional sex partners and that Shepard was a methamphetamine dealer.[39][40][41] Jimenez wrote that Fritzen told an interviewer "Matthew Shepard's sexual preference or sexual orientation certainly wasn't the motive in the homicide...".[42]

Many commentators have criticized Jimenez's views on the attack as being sensational and misleading; those views were shared by gay advocacy organizations and cultural critics.[43][44][45][46][39] Some commentators, however, have spoken up to defend it.[47] Some police who were involved in the investigation have criticized Jimenez's conclusions,[48][49] while other police said that there was evidence that drugs were an important factor that led to the murder.[10]

Anti-gay protests

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, led by Fred Phelps, received national attention for picketing Shepard's funeral with signs bearing homophobic slogans, such as "Matt in Hell" and "God Hates Fags".[50]

Church members also mounted anti-gay protests during the trials of Henderson and McKinney.[51] In response, Romaine Patterson, one of Shepard's friends, organized a group that assembled in a circle around the Westboro Baptist Church protesters. The group wore white robes and gigantic wings (resembling angels) that blocked the protesters. Despite this action, Shepard's parents were still able to hear the protesters shouting anti-gay remarks and comments directed towards them. The police intervened and created a human barrier between the two groups.[52]Angel Action was founded by Patterson in April 1999.[52][53]


In the years following her son's death, Judy Shepard has worked as an advocate for LGBT rights, particularly issues relating to gay youth.[8] She was a main force behind the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which she and her husband Dennis founded in December 1998.[54]

Gay rights activist John Stoltenberg has said that to portray Shepard as a gay-bashing victim is to present an incomplete account of his victimization: "Keeping Matthew as the poster boy of gay-hate crime and ignoring the full tragedy of his story has been the agenda of many gay-movement leaders. Ignoring the tragedies of Matthew's life prior to his murder will do nothing to help other young men in our community who are sold for sex, ravaged by drugs, and generally exploited."[10]

In June 2019, Shepard was one of the inaugural fifty American "pioneers, trailblazers, and heroes" inducted on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument (SNM) in New York City's Stonewall Inn.[55][56] The SNM is the first U.S. national monument dedicated to LGBTQ rights and history,[57] and the wall's unveiling was timed to take place during the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.[58]

Hate crime legislation

Main article: Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

See also: Hate crime laws in the United States

Requests for new legislation to address hate crimes gained momentum during coverage of the incident.[59][60] Under existing United States federal law[61] and Wyoming state law,[62] crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation could not be prosecuted as hate crimes.

A few hours after Shepard was discovered, his friends Walt Boulden and Alex Trout began to contact media organizations, claiming that Shepard had been assaulted because he was gay. According to prosecutor Cal Rerucha, "They were calling the County Attorney's office, they were calling the media and indicating Matthew Shepard is gay and we don't want the fact that he is gay to go unnoticed."[9] Tina Labrie, a close friend of Shepard's, said "[Boulden and Trout] wanted to make [Matt] a poster child or something for their cause".[63] Boulden linked the attack to the absence of a Wyoming criminal statute providing for a hate crimes charge.[10]

In the following session of the Wyoming Legislature, a bill was introduced that defined certain attacks motivated by a victim's sexual orientation as hate crimes. The measure failed on a 30–30 tie in the Wyoming House of Representatives.[64][54]

President Bill Clinton renewed attempts to extend federal hate crime legislation to include gay people, women, and people with disabilities.[65] A Hate Crimes Prevention Act was introduced in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives in November 1997, and reintroduced in March 1999, but was passed by only the Senate in July 1999.[66] In September 2000, both houses of Congress passed such legislation; however, it was stripped out in conference committee.[67]

On March 20, 2007, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1592) was introduced as federal bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Congress, sponsored by Democrat John Conyers with 171 co-sponsors. Shepard's parents attended the introduction ceremony. The bill passed the House of Representatives on May 3, 2007. Similar legislation passed in the Senate on September 27, 2007[68] (S. 1105), however then-President George W. Bush indicated he would veto the legislation if it reached his desk.[69] The Democratic leadership dropped the amendment in response to opposition from conservative groups and Bush, and because the measure was attached to a defense bill there was a lack of support from antiwar Democrats.[70] On December 10, 2007, congressional powers attached bipartisan hate crimes legislation to a Department of Defense Authorization bill, although it failed to pass. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said she was "still committed to getting the Matthew Shepard Act passed". Pelosi planned to get the bill passed in early 2008[71] although she did not succeed. Following his election as president, Barack Obama stated that he was committed to passing the Act.[72]

The U.S. House of Representatives debated expansion of hate crimes legislation on April 29, 2009. During the debate, Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina called the "hate crime" labeling of Shepard's murder a "hoax".[73] Foxx later called her comments "a poor choice of words".[74] The House passed the act, designated H.R. 1913, by a vote of 249 to 175.[75]Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, and a bipartisan coalition introduced the bill in the Senate on April 28;[76] it had 43 cosponsors as of June 17, 2009. The Matthew Shepard Act was adopted as an amendment to S.1390 by a vote of 63–28 on July 15, 2009.[77] On October 22, 2009, the Senate passed the act by a vote of 68–29.[78] President Obama signed the measure into law on October 28, 2009.[79][80]

Interment in Washington National Cathedral

On October 26, 2018, just over 20 years after his death, Shepard's ashes were interred at the crypt of Washington National Cathedral.[81][82] The ceremony was presided over by the first openly gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson, and the Bishop of Washington Reverend Marianne Edgar Budde. Music was performed by the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington DC, GenOUT, and Conspirare, which performed Craig Hella Johnson's Considering Matthew Shepard.[83] His was the first interment of the ashes of a national figure at the cathedral since Helen Keller's fifty years earlier.[84]

In popular culture

Main article: Cultural depictions of Matthew Shepard

Matthew Shepard's life, death, trial, and its aftermath have inspired numerous works, including documentary and narrative films and television shows, stage plays (such as The Laramie Project), and musical and written works. Additionally, NBA player Jason Collins wore the jersey number "98" in honor of Shepard during his 2012–13 season with the Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards, and would come out as gay following the season.[85] After Collins joined the Brooklyn Nets in 2014, NBA marketing reported high interest in his "98" jersey[86] and high sales once the item became available for purchase.[87][88]

The Meaning of Matthew, its full title The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed, is a 2009 biographical book by Judy Shepard about her son Matthew Shepard. Judy Shepard speaks about her loss, her family memories of Matthew, and the tragic event that changed the Shepards' lives and America. The Meaning of Matthew follows the Shepard family in the days immediately after the crime to see their incapacitated son, kept alive by life support machines; how the Shepards learned of the huge public response, the candlelit vigils and memorial services for their child; and their struggles to navigate the legal system.[89]

See also


  1. ^"About Us". Matthew Shepard Foundation. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 19, 2017.
  2. ^ ab"Matthew Shepard Foundation webpage". Matthew Shepard Foundation. Archived from the original on July 29, 2008. Retrieved October 4, 2009.
  3. ^"Obama signs hate-crimes law rooted in crimes of 1998". USA Today. October 28, 2009. Archived from the original on September 18, 2011. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  4. ^ abcde"The Crucifixion of Matthew Shepard". Vanity Fair. January 8, 2014. Archived from the original on October 13, 2015. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
  5. ^Julie Cart (September 14, 1999). "Matthew Shepard's Mother Aims to Speak With His Voice". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 9, 2012. Retrieved November 3, 2009.
  6. ^Fortin, Jacey (October 11, 2018). "Matthew Shepard Will Be Interred at the Washington National Cathedral, 20 Years After His Death". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 11, 2018. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  7. ^Bevacqua, Jillian; Paone, Torie (July 5, 2011). "Judy Shepard speaks out against anti-gay violence". Muhlenberg Weekly. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013.
  8. ^ abRing, Trudy (March 2, 2015). "Getting to Know the Real Matthew Shepard". The Advocate. Archived from the original on December 21, 2016. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  9. ^ abcdefghij"New Details Emerge in Matthew Shepard Murder". ABC News Internet Ventures. November 26, 2004. Archived from the original on October 6, 2019. Retrieved June 7, 2009.
  10. ^ abcdeJulie Bindel (October 25, 2014). "The truth behind America's most famous gay-hate murder". The Guardian. Archived from the original on May 10, 2017. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  11. ^ abBrooke, James (October 12, 1998). "Gay Man Dies From Attack, Fanning Outrage and Debate". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 2, 2014. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  12. ^ abRamsland, Katherine. "Psychiatry, the Law, and Depravity: Profile of Michael Welner, M.D. Chairman, The Forensic Panel". truTV. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  13. ^"Killer: Shepard Didn't Make Advances". Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved December 7, 2007.
  14. ^Loffreda, Beth (2000). Losing Matt Shepard: life and politics in the aftermath of anti-gay murder. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN .
  15. ^Chiasson, Lloyd (November 30, 2003). Illusive Shadows: Justice, Media, and Socially Significant American Trials. Praeger. p. 183. ISBN .
  16. ^"The Daily Camera:Matthew Shepard Murder". Archived from the original on April 24, 2008. Retrieved April 6, 2006.
  17. ^Black, Robert W. (October 29, 1999). "Girlfriend: McKinney told of killing". The Daily Camera.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^James Brooke (October 16, 1998), Men Held in Beating Lived on the FringesArchived December 1, 2017, at the Wayback MachineThe New York Times
  19. ^"New details emerge about suspects in gay attack". CNN. October 13, 1998. Archived from the original on May 8, 2008. Retrieved January 21, 2007.
  20. ^Hughes, Jim (October 15, 1998). "Wyo. bicyclist recalls tragic discovery". The Denver Post. p. A01.
  21. ^Reavill, Gil (2007). Aftermath, Inc: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home. Gotham. p. 103. ISBN .
  22. ^"Magnificent New Book About Matthew Shepherd Astonishes". Lavender (378). November 19, 2009. Archived from the original on October 4, 2013. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
  23. ^Loffreda, Beth (2000). Losing Matt Shepard: Life and Politics in the Aftermath of Anti-Gay Murder. Columbia University Press. ISBN .
  24. ^"University of Wyoming Matthew Shepard Resource Site". University of Wyoming. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2006.
  25. ^"Hate crimes bill still elusive 10 years after savage gay killing". The Ottawa Citizen. Ottawa, Canada. CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc. October 14, 2008. Archived from the original on March 20, 2016. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
  26. ^Egerton, Brooks (October 17, 1998). "Symbol of outrage". The Spokesman-Review. p. A2. Archived from the original on May 21, 2021. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
  27. ^"Murder charges planned in beating death of gay student". CNN. October 12, 1998. Archived from the original on August 22, 2006. Retrieved November 1, 2006.
  28. ^Lacayo, Richard (October 26, 1998). "The New Struggle". Time. Archived from the original on January 29, 2011. Retrieved November 1, 2006.
  29. ^ ab"Beaten gay student dies; murder charges planned". CNN. October 12, 1998. Archived from the original on June 20, 2006. Retrieved January 14, 2007.
  30. ^"Matthew Shepard Medical Update"(PDF). Poudre Valley Health System (Colorado). October 12, 1998. Archived from the original(PDF) on June 30, 2007. Retrieved January 14, 2007.
  31. ^ abcBrooke, James (November 21, 1998). "Witnesses Trace Brutal Killing of Gay Student". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 29, 2013. Retrieved September 17, 2013.
  32. ^ abBrooke, James (April 6, 1999). "Gay murder trial ends with guilty plea". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved November 2, 2014.
  33. ^Cullen, Dave (November 1, 1999). "Quiet bombshell in Matthew Shepard trial". Salon. Retrieved February 19, 2012.
  34. ^Janofsky, Michael (October 26, 1999). "A defense to avoid execution". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 2, 2014. Retrieved November 2, 2014.
  35. ^Cart, Julie (November 5, 1999). "Killer of Gay Student Is Spared Death Penalty; Courts: Matthew Shepard's father says life in prison shows "mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy."". Los Angeles Times. p. A1.
  36. ^Torkelson, Jean (October 3, 2008). "Mother's mission: Matthew Shepard's death changes things". Rocky Mountain News. The E.W. Scripps Co. Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved November 16, 2008.
  37. ^"Last gay beating trial ends". CBS News. November 4, 1999. Archived from the original on November 2, 2014. Retrieved November 2, 2014.
  38. ^James Kirchick (October 22, 2013), Book Review: 'The Book of Matt,' by Stephen JimenezArchived July 4, 2021, at the Wayback MachineThe Wall Street Journal
  39. ^ abRosenberg, Alyssa (October 18, 2013). "'The Book Of Matt' Doesn't Prove Anything, Other Than The Size Of Stephen Jimenez's Ego". ThinkProgress. Archived from the original on October 18, 2013. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  40. ^"Matthew Shepard Murdered By Bisexual Lover And Drug Dealer, Stephen Jimenez Claims In New Book". Huffington Post. September 12, 2013. Archived from the original on September 16, 2013. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  41. ^Smith, Kyle (September 21, 2013). "New book questions Matthew Shepard killing". New York Post. Archived from the original on October 3, 2013. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  42. ^Jimenez, Stephen (2013). The Book of Matt. Steerforth. p. 168. ISBN .
  43. ^Lee, Felicia R. (November 26, 2004). "ABC News Revisits Student's Killing, and Angers Some Gays". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 12, 2018. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  44. ^"GLAAD: 10 Questions About ABC'S 20/20 Show on Matthew Shepard". Archived from the original on May 14, 2009. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  45. ^Charles, Casey (2012). Critical Queer Studies: Law, Film, and Fiction in Contemporary American Culture. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN . Archived from the original on July 4, 2021. Retrieved July 4, 2021.
  46. ^O'Donnell, M. (2008). "Gay-hate, journalism and compassionate questioning". Asia Pacific Media Educator (19): 113–126. Archived from the original on October 4, 2013. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  47. ^"Have We Got Matthew Shepard All Wrong?". September 13, 2013. Archived from the original on October 24, 2013. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  48. ^Hemmelgarn, Seth (October 24, 2013). "Shepard book stirs controversy". The Bay Area Reporter. Archived from the original on November 10, 2014.
  49. ^Jiminez, Stephen (November 24, 2014). "Book of Matt Author Responds to Media Matters". Out. Archived from the original on October 13, 2018. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  50. ^"Top Story". Gay Today. Archived from the original on April 4, 2012. Retrieved January 3, 2012.
  51. ^Cullen, Dave (October 11, 1999). "Put the victim on trial?". Salon. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  52. ^ ab"Suspect pleads guilty in beating death of gay college student". CNN. April 5, 1999. Archived from the original on January 2, 2007. Retrieved January 18, 2007.
  53. ^"The Whole World Was Watching". Archived from the original on October 15, 2006. Retrieved January 18, 2007.
  54. ^ abPilkington, Ed (October 10, 2013). "Fifteen years after Matthew Shepard's murder, Wyoming remains anti-gay". The Guardian. Archived from the original on March 21, 2017. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
  55. ^Glasses-Baker, Becca (June 27, 2019). "National LGBTQ Wall of Honor unveiled at Stonewall Inn". Archived from the original on June 28, 2019. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  56. ^SDGLN, Timothy Rawles-Community Editor for (June 19, 2019). "National LGBTQ Wall of Honor to be unveiled at historic Stonewall Inn". San Diego Gay and Lesbian News. Archived from the original on June 21, 2019. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  57. ^"Groups seek names for Stonewall 50 honor wall". The Bay Area Reporter / B.A.R. Inc. Archived from the original on May 24, 2019. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  58. ^"Stonewall 50". San Francisco Bay Times. April 3, 2019. Archived from the original on May 25, 2019. Retrieved May 25, 2019.
  59. ^Colby College (March 7, 2006). "Mother of Hate-Crime Victim to Speak at Colby". Archived from the original on September 11, 2006. Retrieved April 6, 2006. Press release.
  60. ^"Open phones". Talk of the Nation. National Public Radio. October 12, 1998. Archived from the original on March 17, 2008. Retrieved April 6, 2006. "Denounced nationwide as a hate crime" at 1:40 elapsed time.
  61. ^"Investigative Programs: Civil Rights: Hate Crimes". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on April 5, 2006. Retrieved April 6, 2006.
  62. ^"Map of State Statutes". Anti-Defamation League. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved April 6, 2006.
  63. ^The Myths of Matthew Shepard's Infamous DeathArchived October 27, 2014, at the Wayback MachineThe Daily Beast (September 22, 2013)
  64. ^Blanchard, Robert O. (May 1999). "The 'Hate State' Myth". Reason. Archived from the original on April 5, 2006. Retrieved April 6, 2006.
  65. ^Barrett, Ted (September 13, 2000). "President Clinton urges Congress to pass hate crimes bill: GOP aides predict legislation will pass House, but will not become law". Associated Press. CNN. Archived from the original on May 26, 2008. Retrieved April 7, 2006.
  66. ^"Hate Crimes Timeline". Human Rights Campaign. Archived from the original on March 19, 2017. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  67. ^Office of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (October 7, 2004). "House Democrats Condemn GOP Rejection of Hate Crimes Legislation". Archived from the original on April 1, 2006. Retrieved April 7, 2006. Press release.
  68. ^Simon, R. (May 3, 2007). "Bush threatens to veto expansion of hate-crime law". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 13, 2007. Retrieved May 7, 2007.
  69. ^Stout, D. (May 3, 2007). "House Votes to Expand Hate Crime Protection". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 29, 2017. Retrieved February 11, 2017.
  70. ^Wooten, Amy (January 1, 2008). "Congress Drops Hate-Crimes Bill". Windy City Times. Archived from the original on June 8, 2010. Retrieved July 31, 2008.
  71. ^"Caving in on Hate Crimes"Archived September 26, 2018, at the Wayback Machine, New York Times, December 10, 2007; retrieved December 11, 2007.
  72. ^Lynsen, Joshua (June 13, 2008). "Obama renews commitment to gay issues". Washington Blade. Window Media LLC Productions. Archived from the original on June 17, 2008. Retrieved November 16, 2008.
  73. ^Grim, Ryan (April 29, 2009). "Virginia Foxx: Story of Matthew Shepard's Murder A "Hoax"". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on August 5, 2011. Retrieved April 29, 2009.
  74. ^"Congresswoman calls gay death case a 'hoax'". Archived from the original on September 5, 2010. Retrieved April 29, 2009.
  75. ^Stout, David (April 29, 2009). "House Passes Hate-Crimes Bill". New York Times. Archived from the original on May 2, 2009. Retrieved April 30, 2009.
  76. ^"Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act Introduced in Senate". April 29, 2009. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved March 5, 2010.
  77. ^"U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records: Roll Call Vote". Archived from the original on July 21, 2009. Retrieved July 17, 2009.
  78. ^Roxana Tiron, "Senate OKs defense bill, 68-29", The Hill, found at The Hill websiteArchived October 25, 2009, at the Wayback Machine; retrieved October 22, 2009.
  79. ^Pershing, Ben (October 23, 2009). "Senate passes measure that would protect gays". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on April 9, 2017. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  80. ^Geen, Jessica (October 28, 2009). "Mother of Matthew Shepard welcomes U.S. hate crimes bill". Pink News. Archived from the original on November 2, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2009.
  81. ^Fortin, Jacey (October 11, 2018). "Matthew Shepard Will Be Interred at the Washington National Cathedral, 20 Years After His Death". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 11, 2018. Retrieved October 11, 2018.
  82. ^Burton, Tara Isabella (October 26, 2018). "Bishop Robinson welcomes Matthew Shepard — and gay Christians — back to the church". Vox. Archived from the original on October 26, 2018. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  83. ^"Gay hate crime victim interred in capital". BBC News. October 26, 2018. Archived from the original on October 26, 2018. Retrieved October 26, 2018.
  84. ^Bains, Davd (October 13, 2018). "Matthew Shepard and the History of the Interment the Dead in Washington National Cathedral". Chasing Churches. Archived from the original on October 20, 2018. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  85. ^Grindley, Lucas (May 1, 2013). "Matthew Shepard's Mom Moved to Tears by Jason Collins's Gesture". The Advocate. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved October 7, 2013.
  86. ^"A Sudden Demand for No. 98 Jerseys". February 25, 2014. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved February 11, 2017.
  87. ^Mazzeo, Mike (February 27, 2014). "Jason Collins' No. 98 for sale". ESPN. Archived from the original on April 18, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  88. ^Moore, Matt (February 26, 2014). "Jason Collins' jersey skyrockets to No. 1 on sales list". CBS Sports. Archived from the original on May 27, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  89. ^Shepard, Judy (2009). The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed. New York: Penguin Group USA. ISBN .

Further reading

  • Campbell, Shannon; Laura Castaneda (2005). News and Sexuality: Media Portraits of Diversity. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, Inc. ISBN .
  • Fondakowski, Leigh; Kaufman, Moisés (2001). The Laramie Project. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN .
  • Garceau, Dee; Basso, Matthew; McCall, Laura (2001). Across the Great Divide: Cultures of manhood in the American West. New York: Routledge. ISBN .
  • Hinds, Patrick; Romaine Patterson (2005). The Whole World Was Watching: Living in the Light of Matthew Shepard. New Hampshire: Advocate Books. ISBN .
  • Jimenez, Stephen (2013). The Book of Matt: hidden truths about the murder of Matthew Shepard. Steerforth Press. ISBN .
  • Loffreda, Beth (2000). Losing Matt Shepard: life and politics in the aftermath of anti-gay murder. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN .
  • McConnell, David (2013). American Honor Killings: Desire and Rage Among Men. Akashic Books. ISBN .
  • Swigonski, Mary E.; Mama, Robin S.; Ward, Kelly (2001). From Hate Crimes to Human Rights: A Tribute to Matthew Shepard. New York: Routledge. ISBN .
  • Krutzsch, Brett (2019). Dying to Be Normal: Gay Martyrs and the Transformation of American Sexual Politics. New York: Oxford. ISBN .

External links


Wyoming murders casper

The Casper Police Department have made an arrest in the homicide investigation of Ryan Schroeder.

Per a news release, the CPD announced that they arrested Justin Armando Marquez of Casper on Friday, September 3, "as part of a nearly two-month long investigation into the whereabouts and death of Ryan Schroeder."

According to the release, Marques was arrested for one recommended felony charge of murder in the second degree.

The CPD stated that "Due to the active and sensitive nature of this investigation, no further information will be released at this time to ensure the integrity of the case. The Casper Police Department remain dedicated to transparency with our community and will share public updates as they become available."

Read More: Casper Police Investigating Found Body As Homicide

K2 News will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available in this ongoing case.

LOOK BACK: Casper's Top News Stories of 2020

Suspects caught on camera killing mother, baby: WARNING GRAPHIC

Raped and ‘Murdered’ 19 Years Ago, Woman Returns to Death : Crime: She ‘died’ after 1973 attack that killed her sister, local sheriff says. Her plunge from a canyon bridge just sealed her fate.

CASPER, Wyo. — 

Rebecca Thomson Brown died the second time she plunged from the Fremont Canyon Bridge.

But friends say it was the first time 19 years ago that really killed her. The second time, just last month, merely sealed her fate.

It was the night of Sept. 24, 1973, when Rebecca and her 11-year-old sister Amy were abducted by a pair of wild-eyed hoodlums who surreptitiously slashed a tire on the girls’ car at a Casper convenience store and then feigned an offer to take them home.

Instead, the men drove 40 miles southwest to the remote Fremont Canyon Bridge, a one-lane, steel-beamed structure rising 112 feet above the North Platte River.

Rebecca, then 18, was raped and brutally beaten, and the two girls were thrown over the bridge into the narrow gorge.

Amy fell straight down, hitting a rock near the river bank. She died. But Rebecca’s fall was broken when her hips slammed into a ledge and ricocheted her body into deeper water.

With her hip fractured in five places, Rebecca managed to swim to shore. Naked from the waist down, she hid in the split of two rocks, covering herself with her long brown hair and sagebrush--and hearing her abductors’ voices above. As the sun rose and the bridge yielded no one, she inched her broken body up a steep, gravel-covered rock slide, groping hand over hand to the roadside for help.

Nearly two decades later--on Friday, July 31--she returned to the scene she had avoided since that pitch-black night, and plunged off the bridge. No one knows if she jumped or fell.

“She was raped and murdered 19 years ago, but she just died Friday,” said Natrona County Sheriff Dave Dovala, who had arrested the two men the day after Rebecca crawled out of the gorge.

On the day she died, Rebecca, 37, had ignored her boyfriend’s pleading and driven along the winding, hilly country roads to the Fremont Canyon Bridge.

The sky was clear and the sun was setting, casting long shadows across the rocky hillside above and darkening the shallow, slow-moving river below. Standing perilously above the narrow gorge--its red rock walls ribboned with the greens and grays of life and death--she plunged to her death.

“The weather changed after she went off that bridge,” said Dovala, who had given Rebecca away at her wedding three years ago. “It started thundering and lightning, and the wind shifted twice. It was real eerie. It was like somebody was telling us something.”

Rebecca’s boyfriend and her 2-year-old daughter from her failed marriage were with her the night she died.

The boyfriend, who agreed to be interviewed by the Associated Press on the condition that his name not be used, said Rebecca wouldn’t tell him why she wanted to return to the bridge.

“She just said she had to go there,” he said. “The more I told her not to go out there, the faster she went. When she hit 70 m.p.h., that’s when I shut up.”

Rebecca pulled the car to the far side of the bridge, and the three then walked beside the waist-high railing. Rebecca pointed to where the men had raped her, where they had thrown her over, where she hit the protruding rock ledge, where she spent the night, shivering.

Dangling her legs through the railing and resting her arms on top, she cried as she told her boyfriend how she had successfully begged the men not to rape Amy.

“She said, ‘I love you,’ and ran her hands through my hair,” he said. “I told her the baby shouldn’t see her cry. So I started walking back to the car.”

That’s when he heard the crash of Rebecca’s body hitting the water--an unbearable sound that echoed up the canyon walls and still echoes through his mind.

“Why this happened I’ll never know. But I’ll never forget that sound or that sight,” the 33-year-old welder said, his eyes filling with tears.

He ran back to the bridge with her daughter in his arms, yelling, “Rebecca, Rebecca, answer me! I just couldn’t find her. I just couldn’t find her. I was screaming and crying and the baby was screaming and crying.”

Police, who have ruled out foul play, pulled Rebecca’s body out of the water about an hour later--where they had found Amy. She had landed near the bank in about 3 feet of water. Like her sister 19 years ago, she had a broken neck and massive head injuries.

While no one will ever know exactly what went through Rebecca’s mind in the last few moments of her life, the events in the weeks and hours leading up to her death remain eerily prophetic, strangely profound.

The week before, she bought “Ode to Billy Joe,” a movie about a boy who couldn’t cope with memories of being molested by an older man and jumped off Mississippi’s Tallahatchie Bridge. She watched it four times that week with her boyfriend and cried each time, he said.

“She just said, ‘I had to see this show because it reminds me,’ ” he said. “I said ‘Why?’ She said, ‘I like to cry.’ ”

Her friends and family say Rebecca lived in fear that her abductors, Ronald Leroy Kennedy and Jerry Lee Jenkins, would either escape from the Wyoming State Penitentiary or be paroled and return to kill her.

She had testified against them both, pointing them out in the courtroom as Kennedy taunted her by grinning while sliding his finger across his throat.

The two, who were in their late 20s that night in September, were convicted of first-degree murder, rape and assault and battery. They were sentenced to death, but their sentences were reduced to life in prison in 1977 when the Wyoming Supreme Court overturned the state’s death penalty.

Every time the two would come up for parole, Rebecca would relive that endless night.

For the past two years, Kennedy had been appealing for a retrial--an effort that friends say deeply troubled and frightened her. On the day she died, word came that the appeal was denied.

“I was going to call her and tell her it’s over. . . . This was Friday afternoon. I looked for her phone number and couldn’t find it. I thought I would call her on Monday,” said Casper attorney David Lewis, who prosecuted Kennedy and Jenkins in 1974.

Monday was too late.

“She had nightmares every day that they would get out, nightmares about her sister,” said her mother, Toni Case. “Part of her died when her sister died.”

Just three years ago, Rebecca launched a statewide petition drive opposing parole for the two men, gathering hundreds of signatures. Her sisters, Kelly Burridge and Blythe Johnson, were among those going door to door.

“The whole family relived the emptiness,” Kelly said.

“We had such a bad experience before,” Blythe said. “We just didn’t think something of this magnitude would happen to us again.”

Despite the crushing burden of that night in September, Rebecca, who sold advertising for a Casper radio station, maintained a friendly persona. She loved to play practical jokes. She never forgot a friend’s birthday. She loved her daughter.

And when she would say goodby to friends after an evening together, she would hug them, tell them she loved them because “she learned from Amy’s experience that sometimes you don’t get a chance to say, ‘I love you,’ ” said Russell Brown, Rebecca’s ex-husband and the father of her daughter, Vail.

But hidden beneath her friendly mask, Rebecca was plagued with guilt about Amy’s death: She had survived. Amy had not.

She carried Amy’s picture in her wallet. Unable to cope, she turned to drugs and alcohol. Although she hadn’t had a drink for years, she recently had started drinking again. The night she died, she and her boyfriend shared two pitchers of beer.

Her mother thinks the alcohol gave her a false sense of courage to face her fears.

“Maybe,” her mother said, “she thought going there would help her get past it.”

Or maybe she lost her balance, Rebecca’s stepfather, Jack Case, would like to believe.

Or maybe she taunted death there on the edge of the bridge, didn’t really want to die, but slipped.

Or maybe she jumped off impulsively, speculates her former husband.

“She always thought that she should have died and not her sister,” he said. “I just think she was to the point she just gave up. The reason she went back to the bridge was because of her sister--to be with Amy.”

Rebecca’s ashes were buried on top of Amy’s casket at the Highland Cemetery in Casper. More than 500 people attended the funeral.

“Maybe she thought that in death she’d be with her,” Brown said.


Now discussing:


516 517 518 519 520