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Hearing held on Turk Road access issue

HELENA -- The long-running legal dispute over access to properties on Turk Road was back in court this week.

It's a case of disputed access that's also haunted by the memory of Mike Crites, a resident of the area until he disappeared in 2011. His bones were found in garbage bags later that year....more

Crites Family Offers Reward

August 03, 2014 6:00 am  •  By JULIE BAUGHMAN Independent Record

Connie Crites, the sister of deceased Helena area resident Mike Crites, talks with her family in her brother’s home near Birdseye on Thursday. The family returned to the area this week to get people talking about the case again and to meet with Crimestoppers and introduce a $10,000 reward for information on the 3-year-old case. ‘I want to remind people if you are standing in line at the grocery store and you don’t know the person in front of you, you know that you could be standing behind someone who murdered somebody and cut them up,’ Connie Crites said....More


Documents detail probe into Crites murder

By ANGELA BRANDT Independent Recordhelenair | Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 12:00 am

While a Turk Road resident currently faces a felony charge of tampering with evidence for trespassing on another neighbor’s land and removing video cameras, the court documents filed along with the charge outline much of the investigation into the murder of John “Mike” Crites.

Authorities arrested John Raymond Mehan, 52, on a warrant Friday. Mehan remains in jail in lieu of $250,000 bond — a relatively high amount for the tampering charge.

Justice of the Peace Michael Swingley said he initially set the bond amount at $500,000 but lowered it after arguments from attorneys. Swingley said he considered the history of violence regarding the case and details unearthed by the investigation into Crites’ murder that were discussed in the affidavit supporting the charge.

“I feel like this is a pretty serious offense with a possible connection to the Crites disappearance,” Swingley said.

Officials also are concerned that Mehan could be a flight risk. The tampering charge comes with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

The cameras removed were owned by a neighbor but were being used by the sheriff’s office as part of the ongoing investigation into the murder of Crites, who was reported missing in June 2011 and whose bones were located on MacDonald Pass four months later. Officials have not named any suspects and say the case remains under investigation.

Officials allege Mehan is seen on footage captured by the motion-activated cameras walking towards the area shortly before one was moved to the ground and another was somehow corrupted on June 30.

An 11-page affidavit in support of the tampering charge outlines not only the disappearance of Crites but the years of contention leading up to his death.

“During the weekend of June 29-July 1, Mehan spoke with a concerned citizen at a public event in Helena,” the affidavit states. “Mehan told the concerned citizen it would be impossible for police to obtain a DNA profile from the bones located on MacDonald Pass because police had not recovered a specific body part necessary to develop a profile. Although the fact that a complete skeleton was not recovered on MacDonald Pass has been public, the specific body parts that were missing from the skeleton have been known only to law enforcement,” according to documents filed in Justice Court.

Two plastic trash bags containing the partial remains of Crites were located by two U.S. Forest Service employees, who initially were not surprised by the discovery because it is not uncommon to find bags of animal bones in the area, the documents state.

“However, they then saw zip ties in the bag and decided they should call law enforcement,” Sgt. Dave Peterson noted in the affidavit.

“Detectives believe the body was dismembered as there were markings on the remaining bones indicating the body had been sawn apart,” Peterson added.

Crites’ family gave detectives a baseball cap worn by Crites in order to conduct DNA testing and in January the identity of the remains were officially matched.

“To date, various body parts, a cellular telephone and handgun belonging to Crites have not been recovered,” Peterson wrote.

“Detectives believe these items may not have been disposed of with the bones discarded on MacDonald Pass because the items could contain clues both to Crites’ identity, manner of death and his killer,” he continued.

Crites had ongoing disputes with many of his neighbors over land access, sparking lawsuits over the years.

Court documents say Mehan, who moved with his wife, Katy Wessel, to Turk Road in 2009, began blocking traffic and claiming the road was his private property.

Several civil complaints ensued. One of the lawsuits, filed two days before Crites’ disappearance, asks for an order to declare Turk Road either private or public, a key area of disagreement in the area. The case, filed by Mehan and his wife, is scheduled for a trial in October 2013.

Detectives say Mehan was “known to make threats against Crites and others in the neighborhood who did not support his views regarding access.”

“On Saturday, November 27, 2010, Mehan was arrested for assault with a weapon after he pointed a rifle at Crites as Crites traveled down Turk Road across Mehan’s property. Deputies later learned that Wessel was on the opposite side of Turk Road, at Crites’ back as he faced Mehan, while this incident took place.” Wessel told officers she had been hunting farther down Turk Road and was thus armed with a hunting rifle. “Mehan ultimately was convicted of negligent endangerment in connection with this incident,” Peterson noted in the affidavit.

In the days leading up to his disappearance, Crites’ roadway issues were in the forefront.

A neighbor reported Crites missing on June 28, 2011. According to authorities, Crites was supposed to meet with neighbor Leon Ford, who owns 15 acres north of his property, over a dispute regarding land access and was not heard from or seen after the scheduled meeting.

Court documents also note an interaction in 2007 in which Ford allegedly pointed a loaded handgun at Crites during an argument over land access.

Prosecutors allege on the morning of June 26, 2011, Ford’s pickup was seen traveling up Turk Road to his and Crites’ property. Court documents say Ford claimed he was weed spraying at that time.

“The pickup is not towing a sprayer although Ford told deputies he went to his property on June 26 to spray for weeds,” according to the affidavit.

The pickup is seen that afternoon speeding down the roadway away from his and Crites’ land, court documents allege.

In January 2012, Ford was interviewed at his residence in Oak Harbor, Wash.

“The explanation Ford gave on January 9 differed significantly from the statements made to law enforcement on June 28, 2011,” law enforcement officials claim. After being presented with information by the detectives, “Ford changed his story yet again to conform to facts provided him by law enforcement,” Peterson wrote.

No charges have been filed against Ford or Mehan in connection with Crites’ death


Judge reverses Crites default

A district judge has set aside a default in a lawsuit by neighbors against the estate of John Michael “Mike” Crites, giving the deceased Birdseye man’s family a new chance to respond to the complaint.....more


Neighbors file claims for $75,000 from Crites estate

A trio of neighbors who sued John “Mike” Crites, the Birdseye man who was apparently murdered last year, have filed claims totaling $75,000 against Crites’ estate....more


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Neighbors offer to settle suit against dead man’s estate

ARTICLE: A trio of neighbors that filed a lawsuit against a Birdseye man who was later murdered has offered to settle the case for a “nominal amount,” their attorneys said in a court filing Monday requesting a hearing on the damages they say they should be awarded.....more


Mehan pleads not guilty to evidence tampering

Posted Aug. 2, 2012

...ongoing investigation into the murder of John Michael Crites, whose remains were found on MacDonald Pass last year. Court documents state that Mehan knew the body was not a complete skeleton and was missing a specific body part; that information was only known to law enforcement. Court documents also...more

Birdseye man charged with evidence tampering in Crites investigation

Posted Jul. 8, 2012

evidence in investigating John Michael Crites' disappearance and death. Mehan's attorney argued that the bail be reduced to between $5,000 and $10,000, but Judge Swingley denied that request...more

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