Update on Willoughby case
Sublette Prosecuting Attorney and Sheriff hold another press conference on June 22
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
June 22, 2011
Sublette County Prosecuting Attorney Neal Stelting and Sublette County Sheriff Dave Lankford held a press conference on Wednesday morning, June 22, to provide additional information about the press release that was issued on Tuesday, June 14th regarding additional, possibly "exculpatory," evidence that has been recently uncovered related to the Troy Willoughby murder trial case. (See the links below for more background on the case and the related document).
Stelting read the following statement: "Last Tuesday my office, in conjunction with the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office, provided a press release regarding the Willoughby murder trial. The press release provided information that the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office and the Sublette County Attorney’s Office was in possession of a June 21, 1984 police report that contains exculpatory evidence regarding Willoughby’s whereabouts the night of Elisabeth Ehler’s murder. The press release stated that the preliminary investigation revealed that former 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. At this time, we continue to stand by that statement. The press release has generated a lot of questions and speculation. The purpose of today’s press conference is to address as many questions as we can in light of the ongoing investigations. The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation has agreed to conduct a formal investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the failure or refusal to disclose the document to Willoughby’s attorneys. We will not be answering specific questions about that investigation at this time."
Stelting said he sent out a request yesterday morning (Tuesday, June 21st). to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) asking for a formal, independent evaluation into whether or not there was any prosecutorial misconduct in the handling of the Troy Willoughby murder trial case. The former prosecutor, Lucky McMahon, has since moved away from Sublette County. Stelting said his office had no official comment on the investigation until they had a report from DCI.
Stelting said his office is now reexamining the evidence and witness statements to decide whether or not to re-file charges in the now 27-year old murder case. "We are faced with the likelihood that Troy Willoughby will receive a new trial," Stelting said during the press conference. Stelting said that neither he, nor anyone in his office, has ever prosecuted a 1st degree murder case. He expects his office to have a decision within the next 30 days on whether or not to re-file the charges. After that, the court would likely make a decision within 30 to 60 days, and a new trial could start within several months, depending on the Court’s schedule.
Sheriff Lankford read the following statement: "During the recent Willoughby Supreme court action, Capt. Gehlhausen and I were in my office and had the opportunity to be talking about the Willoughby case. During that conversation, Capt. Gelhausen mentioned a piece of evidence that he did not feel was given the proper attention. We talked about it and then went to the archive, retrieved it and read through it. It was discussed between us and I felt along with Gehlhausen that this should go to the County Attorney."
Stelting said Gelhausen came forward with the report in 2009 and brought it to the attention of former County Attorney Lucky McMahon before the trial. Gelhausen speculated the Defense team had never received the document during the trail. After the elections brought in a new administration with a new Sublette County Prosecuting Attorney and Sheriff, Gelhausen again brought the police report documents forward and to their attention. "Captain Gehlhausen has brought great integrity to this process," Stelting said.
The evidence in question is a police report that states that Troy Willoughby was contacted by an officer at his residence in Daniel, Wyoming regarding an altercation with three men in Daniel in the late hours of the night before the murder, June 20, 1984. The police report places Troy Willoughby and his wife in Daniel, Wyoming around midnight instead of at a party in Jackson as stated during testimony at the trial. The murder in Hoback Canyon is believed to have occurred around 6:00AM on June 21st.
Complicating the possibility of the new trial for the prosecution is the fact that the man who is now the investigator for the Sublette County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Rick Wermuth, was the public defender investigator for the Willoughby trial. Stelting said Wermuth is being screened from all internal investigations into this new development of the case. Wermuth could possibly be called as a witness by the defense team. "He has a clear conflict of interest," Stelting said. He added he did not see an additional need for an investigator at this time, saying at this point he didn’t see much to investigate.
Stelting said his office is retrieving all the documents in their possession about the case and will be interviewing material witnesses in the next day or two.
Commenting as to why they released this new information, Stelting said, "Sheriff Lankford and I took oaths of office. We swore to uphold the Constitution. The government doesn’t get to decide whose rights are violated. We didn’t have any other option but to disclose the documents."
Audio from Sublette County Prosecutor Neal Stelting (1.07 MB mp3 file – Thank you to Bob Rule, KPIN 101.1 FM Radio for this audio file)
Willoughby ‘exculpatory evidence’ brings shock - By Joy Ufford, Sublette Examiner, June 20, 2011
Willoughby rehearing denied by Supreme Court - By Ron Aiken, Sublette Examiner, June 16, 2011
Willoughby conviction could be overturned - By Ron Aiken, Sublette Examiner, June 15, 2011
Willoughby defense may have been compromised Petition for rehearing denied Thursday - By Kaitlyn McAvoy, Pinedale Roundup, June 16, 2011
Exculpatory evidence revealed in Troy Willoughby trial - Pinedale Online, June 14, 2011
Willoughby sentenced to life without parole - By Kaitlyn McAvoy, Pinedale Roundup, March 29, 2010
GUILTY: Jurors return verdict in less than 2 hours - By Joy Ufford, January 29, 2010
Murder Trial begins after 25 Years - By Joy Ufford, Sublette Examiner, January 25, 2010