Small town residents are more trusting of strangers that big-city dwellers. People still leave their doors unlocked when they aren’t home and at night, especially in rural areas. When a heinous crime occurs, it rocks the entire community.
What do young adults do in a small town on a Friday or Saturday night? In the small town where this true-crime occurred, they head to the local saloon.
A small group of newly aquatinted friends offered a young woman a ride home after she’d gotten into a fight with her boyfriend while at the saloon. She accepted. During the ride, a fight broke out between the woman and another female in the vehicle. The driver pulled off the main road to a dirt road.
Everyone got out of the vehicle and began beating the woman. At one point, the driver showed the female assailant how to strangle someone with a bandana—she followed his instructions and strangled the woman from the saloon. Thought for dead, the driver poured gasoline over her, lit her on fire, then drove the group away from the crime scene.
A rancher in the area found her 14 hours after the crime—naked, beaten, frostbitten, and burned, but clinging to life. The medical response team flew her to a hospital where she later died.
The authorities honed-in on the saloon as the starting point of what turned into a deadly night for the group of friends. Witnesses and surveillance video confirmed the victim left with the group. Once investigators identified and questioned them, they each gave different versions of what happened.
A U.S. Attorney associated with the case said,
“This was an extraordinarily heinous crime. Our condolences go out to the victim’s family, friends and the entire community.”
The driver went to trial, the jury found him guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison, five years of supervised release, and over $14,000.00 in restitution.
The female assailant pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting first-degree murder. A judge sentenced her to 40 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and over $14,000.00 in restitution.
An accomplice pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact and to misprision of a felony (the deliberate concealment of one’s knowledge of a treasonable act or a felony). A judge sentenced him to nine years in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered him to pay over $14,000.00 in restitution.
Source: U.S. District Court, U.S. Department of Justice