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Pinedale Online > News > March 2009 > Arrest made in 25-year old murder case

Cold Case Team. Photo by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online.
Cold Case Team
Back Row: (L to R) Sublette County Sheriff’s Office "Cold Case" detectives Sarah Brew and Lance Gehlhausen, Sublette County Attorney Investigator Randall Hanson, SCSO Detective Shane Templar. Front Row: (L to R) Sublette County Sheriff Wayne "Bardy" Bardin, Sublette County Prosecuting Attorney Lucky McMahon, Sublette County Captain Brian Ketterhagen.
Arrest made in 25-year old murder case
Troy Willoughby charged with 1984 murder of Elizabeth Ehlers
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
Original post March 1, 2009 | Updated March 3, 2009

The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office held a special press conference on Sunday, March 1, to release the news of the arrest of a man in the murder of Elizabeth Ehlers. Troy Dean Willoughby was arrested in Helena, Montana today.

Ehlers, 25, was found the victim of multiple gunshot wounds on June 21, 1984 at a turnout in Hoback Canyon, between Pinedale and Jackson Hole. She lived in Jackson.

The case had been investigated and reinvestigated multiple times over the years. No suspects were ever developed, and it has remained unsolved for the past 25 years.

The arrest was the culmination of the efforts of four Sublette County Sheriff’s Department detectives working on "cold cases" on file with the department, in cooperation with the Sublette County Prosecuting Attorney’s office.

Sublette County detectives began reinvestigating the case in October, 2008. The "cold case" team put in thousands of hours of work following leads that took them to four states: Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and Idaho. Ultimately, it was fresh eyes relooking at the existing evidence and further pursuing leads that led to developing a suspect in the case. "We did it the old fashioned way," said Sheriff Wayne "Bardy" Bardin, "good old detective work."

Captain Brian Ketterhagen said, "One of us brought the box and set it down and I said everybody grab part of the report, any part of the report, and begin reading it so everybody has an idea of the case and how it went. Everybody eventually read all of it. I looked at my watch and within the first hour we had which direction we were going to go. We sat in this office, the five of us, and determined this is the direction we need to go to solve this homicide."

"I can’t stress enough the cooperation of the Sheriff’s Office and the County Attorney’s office to work together to eventually solve the case," said Captain Ketterhagen.

After answering to his felony charges in Montana, Willoughby is expected to be brought back to Wyoming to face the first degree murder charge in Sublette County.

"This has been a long-time coming," Sheriff Bardin said. "Those involved with this case throughout the years have never forgotten this young woman."

Below is the text of a media release by the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office. Click on this link for a printable PDF of the press release.

March 1, 2009

On or about June 21, 1984, the body of 25-year old Elizabeth Miles Ehlers, a resident of Jackson Hole Wyoming, was found, in a traffic turnout, at the mouth of Hoback Canyon in Sublette County, Wyoming.

After an autopsy, it was determined that Mrs. Ehlers had gunshot wounds to her hand, chest and head. A subsequent investigation determined that Mrs. Ehlers was enroute to Florida to join her husband when the homicide occurred.

The homicide was investigated by the Sublette County Sheriff’s Department under Sheriff Bud Slater at the time without developing a suspect. In the mid-1990s the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation, at the request of Sublette County Sheriff Hank Ruland, re-opened the investigation. No arrests resulted from the DCI investigation.

Sheriff Bardin instructed then Sergeant Detective K.C. Lehr, in 2007, to again look into the case, but no progress was made at that time. In October of 2008, after the reorganization of the Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Bardin requested newly promoted Captain Detective Brian Ketterhagen to re-open the investigation once again.

Captain Ketterhagen, in conjunction with the Sublette County and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the team of Sublette County Detectives consisting of Sarah Brew, Lance Gehlhausen, Shane Templar and Investigator Randall Hanson of Sublette County Attorney’s Office, re-opened the case. After thousands of man-hours and extensive interviews of witnesses across four states, a suspect was developed.

At the end of February, 2009, Detective Brew and Captain Ketterhagen traveled to Helena Montana to interview Troy Dean Willoughby. On March 1, 2009, Sublette County Sheriff’s Detectives, along with Sheriff Bardy Bardin, met with Sublette County and Prosecuting Attorney, Lucky McMahon and Sublette County Attorney Investigator Randall Hanson, to draft a warrant for the arrest of Troy Dean Willoughby for First Degree Murder.

Troy Dean Willoughby was arrested earlier today at Helena, Montana for the murder of Elizabeth Miles Ehlers. Willoughby is a former resident of Daniel, Wyoming and is currently being held in Helena, Montana on felony charges unrelated to the homicide.

Sheriff Bardy Bardin: "This is a 25-year old Cold Case concerning the murder of Elizabeth Ehlers in Sublette County. Those involved with this case throughout the years have never forgotten this young woman."

"Since the reorganization of the Sheriff’s Office, this is the seventh (7th) cold case solved by the Sublette County Detectives. I am very proud of the investigative unit and the amount of time and sacrifices that went into this investigation. And I’m very pleased with the amount of cooperation and assistance from the County Attorney’s Office and from County Attorney Lucky McMahon, and County Attorney Investigator Randall Hanson."

Update March 3, 2009: We've added a link to an article about reflections from the Helena Police Department. See links below.

Related Links
  • Helena Police reflect on helping out with Cold Case - By KFBB TV News Team, (3/3/09)
  • Witnesses key to case - By Amanda H. Miller (Jackson Hole Daily, 3/3/09)
  • Ehlers ‘cold case’ digs up new clues - By Joy Ufford (Sublette Examiner, 2/26/09)
  • Cold case murders examined - By Jonathan Van Dyke (Pinedale Roundup, 2/19/09)
  • Pinedale Online > News > March 2009 > Arrest made in 25-year old murder case

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