Exculpatory evidence revealed in Troy Willoughby trial
Defense 1984 police report could result in overturning murder conviction in Lisa Ehlers case
by Sublette County and Prosecuting Attorney
June 14, 2011
Press Release – June 14, 2011
On June 9, 2011, the Sublette County Attorney’s Office notified the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office and the Wyoming State Public Defender’s Office that prior to the Willoughby murder trial, the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office and the Sublette County Attorney’s Office were in possession of a June 21, 1984 police report that contains exculpatory evidence regarding Willoughby’s whereabouts the night of Elisabeth Ehlers’ murder. The police report indicates that Willoughby was contacted at his residence in Daniel, Wyoming by the Sublette County Sheriffs Office at approximately 12:38 a.m. on June 21, 1984. Ehlers’ body was found in the Hoback Canyon in the early morning hours of June 21, 1984. The Sublette County Attorney’s Office confirmed on June 8, 2011 that the police report was never turned over to Willoughby’s attorneys prior to trial.
A preliminary investigation has revealed that Sublette County Attorney Lucky McMahon was aware of the 1984 police report but did not disclose the report in the pre-trial discovery phase of the criminal proceedings. The Willoughby murder investigation was led by Sublette County Sheriff’s Office Captain Brian Ketterhagen and Sublette County Attorney Investigator Randall Hanson. Prior to trial, Sublette County Detective Lance Gehlhausen became aware of the report and disagreed with the determination by Ketterhagen and Hanson that Willoughby was not entitled to the report. Prompted by his discussion with Ketterhagen and Hanson, Detective Gehlhausen then spoke with McMahon who verified that she had knowledge of the report and its contents.
Approximately three weeks ago, Gehlhausen, now a Captain with the Sheriff’s Office, brought the report to the attention of Sheriff Dave Lankford. Lankford immediately concluded the report needed to be provided to the Sublette County Attorney’s Office for a determination whether the report was ever disclosed to Willoughby during his murder case. As previously stated above, the County Attorney’s Office has confirmed the report was never provided to Willoughby.
Based on the information contained in the report, the Sublette County Attorney’s Office has determined that McMahon had a duty to disclose the report to Willoughby’s attorneys prior to trial. The failure or refusal to disclose the report was a violation of the Court’s Discovery Order and a violation of Willoughby’s constitutional right to due process of law. At this time, the lead trial prosecutor, Anthony Howard, who was contracted to assist McMahon, has denied any knowledge of the existence of the 1984 report.
The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office and County Attorney’s Office are continuing to investigate whether additional evidence was withheld from Willoughby while he was on trial, and what effect the 1984 police report has in evaluating Willoughby’s involvement in the murder. The failure or refusal to disclose the 1984 report will most likely result in Willoughby’s murder conviction being overturned. If the conviction is overturned, the State may have the option of re-filing the murder charges against him. The decision whether to re-file the charges against Willoughby will be made after the current investigation is completed.
The Sublette County Attorney’s Office commends the integrity of Captain Lance Gehlhausen and Sheriff Dave Lankford who made the appropriate ethical decision to bring this information forward. The United States Constitution, the Wyoming Constitution, and the integrity of our criminal justice and judicial system require that this information be made public and be provided to the accused.
Investigations into this matter are ongoing. The Sublette County Attorney’s Office will continue to release information as it becomes available.
Neal R. Stelting
Sublette County Attorney
Click on this link for the press release (PDF)