Officials on Thursday said no arrests are imminent in the year-old John “Mike” Crites murder investigation, but search warrants were executed Wednesday at the Turk Road residences of two neighbors who had a longstanding dispute with him over roads and land access in the Birdseye area.

At a joint press conference with Powell County Sheriff Scott Howard, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton continued to offer little information about the Crites case and declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding the warrants, other than to say no arrests were made. The warrants were executed by 11 officers around 7:45 a.m. Wednesday at the homes of Dennis Shaw and of Katy Wessel and John Mehan, according to online Lewis and Clark County property tax records.

Wessel, Mehan and Shaw are involved in a lawsuit with Crites’ estate over the land and access to public lands beyond Crites’ property. Mehan has pleaded not guilty on a charge of evidence tampering in the case after he allegedly took down two surveillance cameras.

Shaw said that the officers who searched his house were courteous, and they stayed at his residence until 2:30 p.m., taking coolers and ropes with them. He added that he doesn’t know what they were searching for.

Crites disappeared around June 26, 2011. His dismembered remains were found in garbage bags on MacDonald Pass a year ago Friday.

“They think I know something about it (Crites’ death) and I don’t know how to convince them I don’t know a damn thing about it,” Shaw said. “I said I would take a lie detector test or anything else they want. How do you get away from something like this, because you’re just at their mercy? I don’t know what they think that I did.”

Officers also quietly searched the Mehan house for about 10 hours, taking tools, saws, Hefty garbage bags, one handgun from a variety of guns in a safe and bolt cutters, among other items. An officer also swabbed the inside of Mehan’s mouth for a DNA sample.

Jack Morris, Mehan’s attorney, said they weren’t sure why the search warrant was executed, because Mehan has cooperated with investigators looking into Crites’ death.

“He answered their questions where specific items on the property would be stored; he tried to cooperate as best he could,” Morris said. “He would like to get out from being in the middle of this. He maintains he had nothing to do with the disappearance of Mr. Crites. He knows nothing about it and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement.

“Hopefully this case will be solved and the Mehans and Crites can move on with their lives.”

The warrants were served a week after a human skull and other undisclosed remains were found east of Elliston below MacDonald Pass, which is just a few miles west of where some of Crites’ remains were discovered in bags. Portions of Crites’ body were missing from the bags; Dutton has declined to discuss exactly what was in them, citing the ongoing investigation.

But he did want to assure the public that they’re moving forward on the case.

“We are working feverishly,” Dutton said. “There’s a lot of activity going on.”

The newest human remains were found about 6:45 p.m. Sept. 25 just off of Lime Quarry Hills Road. The road is north of Highway 12 and south of the Little Blackfoot Creek and train trestle.

Howard said they received a 911 call from a couple traveling through the area who had stopped along the highway to exercise their dogs.

“While in the area, their dogs were acting very strange and led them to what later on was determined to be human remains,” Howard said. “There was a skull and other human remains found.”

Howard said he’s requested an expedited investigation at the Montana State Crime Lab into the skull to see if it is Crites. If dental records are good enough, they may have an answer within three weeks; if not, DNA testing could double the time it takes.

Dutton and Howard would not say if they found other evidence with the skull or if — like Crites’ — the remains were in a garbage bag.

They also declined to discuss whether there was any duplication among the skull, Crites’ bagged remains and a pair of human legs found June 26 by hikers north of Butte. However, a preliminary DNA analysis of the legs in August didn’t come up with any matches.

Howard did say despite that the three morbid discoveries, he believes only two victims are involved. He added that he has no reason to believe the deaths are the work of a serial killer.

“There’s no serial killer until some evidence shows up and says that,” Howard said.

But he added that stance could change depending on the crime lab reports.

Dutton said the investigation is taking a long time because authorities want to have a solid case before making an arrest.

“We are going to solve this but that will take good investigative work plus help from the community,” Dutton said. “I know some members of the public are frustrated that it seems to be taking a while, but when you got to court … you want to have a good case.”

He said authorities are also seeking help from anyone who may know something about either of the three sets of remains.

Reporter Sanjay Talwani contributed to this report.

Reporter Eve Byron: 447-4076 or

Follow Eve on Twitter@IR_EveByron

(1) comment


I ask you Helena residents, doesn't it seem that Sheriff Leo Dutton sure took a long enough time to get search warrants. Gave John Mehan, Katie Wessel, and Dennis Shaw a long time to get rid of any evidence that they may have had? See, I knew Mike personally; and he personally called Sheriff Leo Dutton a "Barney Fife" because even after a video showing Mehan having set a trap for Mike to not be able to go past Mehan/Wessel's land because Mehan had dumped all the snow on the easeent road making it impassable; then Mehan shooting at Mike which is on video by the way"; which should have been considered "Attempted Murder", Mehan just got a slap on his wrist. Do you trust Mehan, Wessel, and Shaw? Because I sure don't. Why is no one truly calling out Dutton for his lack of doing more for this case? There is way more to look into and he gets re-elected and still doesn't do everything he can to solve this case. This case is solvable and it sure is funny Mehan not only shot at Mike, but also tampered with evidence regarding Mike's murder and he gets another slap on the wrist! Why are so many law officials, including judges (a year to get search warrants, really?) Why did the same D.A. that went after Mike for trumped up charges about his hunting, not sign off on search warrants, do everything she was supposed to do for justice; just because she looked like a fool for overcharging Mike about hunting charges; which a just jury saw through and only gave him one misdemeanor?! Why are Mehan, Wessel, and Shaw still suing the Crites family for a lawsuit that should have never made it to court and yet search warrants which should have been made within a week after MIke's dismembered body parts where found took a year to the same people who were not only suing Mike, but now suing Mike's family? Why are those same three people not being looked at more seriously for the murder of Mike after Mehan shot at him? That alone is probably cause to at least get a search warrant on Mehan! I am tired of sitting here while three or four (if not more people who may be linked to Mike's murder and dismemberment) are running free and still suing the family. Please wake up Helena. End of the road murders happen for a reason. Why aren't people looking into what Mehan and Wessel had planned for the road on Mike's property? Why did they constantly trespass on Mike's property even aiming weapons at him not get stopped before Mike was murdered? Why don't Dutton and everyone in Helena (including the county) hand this case over to the FBI...because if you knew what I knew; you would know that is who should truly have this anyway! Ask yourselves, do you trust these three people? Do trust Dutton to do his job because it is now 4 years since Mike's death and we are no closer to Mike's murderers even after his head and other body parts were found after his torso, legs, and arms were found a year before. Why aren't the Police asking people that know Mehan what he said right before Mike was murdered? Like I wrote before, do you trust these people and trust your law officers to do their job after 4 years have gone by? Make a buzz, talk about both murders of the men that lived at the end of the road. That is what a good neighbor does; they don't sit in a dark room scared to say anything in case the people who murdered Mike might come after them? Enough people talk, they won't be able to go after anyone for fear of showing their hand! If Dutton won't hand this case over to the FBI, why won't he give it to Sheriff Howard since he doesn't have a conflict of interest in this case. Dutton does have a conflict of interest because Mike had called him a Barney Fife to many people in Helena; so he wouldn't care if this case was solved! He treated Mike rudely when he brought in the video showing Mehan shooting at him. Saying he didn't hear the gunshot. Go to and you can see the video of Mehan having set a trap and then shooting at Mike. You'll hear Mike laugh and say, "I wonder if this is enough to prove my case."

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