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Crites murder remains unsolved

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Just a few days into 2012, bones found on MacDonald Pass were identified as those of John Michael “Mike” Crites, who lived alone in the mountains above Birdseye until his disappearance in June 2011.

At the end of 2012, his murder remained unsolved.

A major clue surfaced in late September when hikers found a skull, later identified as Crites, just a few miles from the site of the first set of remains.

About a week later, authorities searched the homes of John Mehan, Katy Wessel and Dennis Shaw — Crites’ neighbors on Turk Road, with whom he had had a longstanding dispute over property and road access, with the neighbors alleging a long pattern of harassment and threatening behavior.

Those neighbors filed a lawsuit against Crites shortly before his disappearance, a court action that continues now against his estate.

Another neighbor, Gloria Flora, said in a court affidavit that it was Mehan and Shaw who were the ones harassing her and her husband, Marc.

Mehan faces a charge of tampering with evidence related to a pair of surveillance cameras authorities say he moved.

Lewis and Clark Sheriff Leo Dutton has said no one is currently a suspect in the murder.

As mysterious as the Crites murder is, the legal battle among the neighbors may prove just as difficult to unravel. The neighbors have launched competing lawsuits to determine the ownership and rights of the road.

Dutton said in November that travel on Turk Road — a narrow, dirt route — may not be safe for outside travelers.

Even if the murder is solved in 2013, the legal battles may continue. Dec. 21, judge’s clerk set a trial date for the case of Mehan, Wessel and Shaw against Crites. It’s due to begin Feb. 11, 2014, and last up to a week.

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