Authorities searching Turk Road property in 2011 Crites murder investigation

Authorities searching Turk Road property in 2011 Crites murder investigation

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Turk Road

Law enforcement officials are seen from a road blockade outside a Turk Road home on Friday. 

Law enforcement officials are searching a Turk Road property as part of an ongoing investigation into the 2011 murder of a man who once lived along the same roadway, which has been at the heart of several access disputes. 

Authorities were tight-lipped about the operations Friday. Several patrol cars blocked the road just outside the home of Katy Wessel and John Mehan. In 2012, officials conducted a search warrant on the same property. 

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said the activity on Turk Road is part of the ongoing investigation into the murder of John "Mike" Crites, who until his death lived up the dirt road from Friday's flurry of activity. 

Authorities refused to answer any further questions regarding the developments, noting that any paperwork relating to the operation are sealed. 

No charges have been filed in the killing.

Part of Crites' remains were found in 2011 on MacDonald Pass in a wooded area just off Highway 12 outside of Helena. Other parts of him were found about a year later on the other side of the Continental Divide near Elliston. 

On Friday morning, Mehan and Wessel appeared in Helena district court as part of a lawsuit they filed against Crites' estate alleging he continually harassed and threatened the married couple and another neighbor, Dennis Shaw. 

A trial in the case was supposed to happen this month, but court documents say the dates will likely be postponed. 

The suit was filed in May 2011. Crites disappeared a month later. He was supposed to meet with a neighbor to discuss to ongoing consternation over land disputes the day he went missing. 

Two trash bags containing some of 48-year-old Crites' bones were found in October 2011 on MacDonald Pass, which is roughly 25 miles from his Turk Road home.

His skull and other parts of him were located a year later in 2012.

In July of that same year, Mehan was arrested on a felony charge of tampering with evidence on allegations he trespassed onto a neighbor's land and removed a video camera that had been used in the murder investigation. In October 2013, Mehan pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of misdemeanor criminal mischief. He received a six-month suspended jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.

The documents filed in the tampering case against Mehan outlined much of the state of the murder investigation at the time, although no one has been charged for the slaying.

Just before his arrest for tampering, the documents allege, Mehan spoke with someone at an event in Helena and voiced knowledge about the case not reported to the public. He said officials had not recovered a specific body part, the paperwork noted.

"Detectives believe the body was dismembered as there were markings on the remaining bones indicating the body had been sawn apart," an investigator wrote in the documents.

At the time, officials had not recovered various body parts, a cellphone and a handgun belonging to Crites. Authorities have declined to say if these items have been found since then.

"Detectives believe these items may not have been disposed of with the bones discarded on MacDonald Pass because the items could contain clues both to Crites' identity, manner of death and his killer," the investigator continued.

When authorities conducted search warrants at the home of Wessel and Mehan in 2012, they collected saws, Hefty garbage bags, a handgun and bolt cutters, among other items, according to previous Independent Record reports.  Shaw's residence was searched at the same time. 

Officials have repeatedly said they've never lost hope of solving the murder. 

Last summer, a new detective took over the case. The previous two lead investigators have since retired. 

Included in the information reviewed by Detective Andrew Blythe were the previous search warrants served in the Turk Road neighborhood, along with one conducted out of state. 

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