Judge: Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Must Provide Him Records of Richardson, McMurry Investigations
The Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation must provide to Natrona County District Court the records of the investigations of the disappearance of Kristi Richardson three years ago this week, the death of Mick McMurry in March 2015 and any connection between the two cases, Judge Thomas Sullins ruled Monday.
Those records will enable Sullins to review them in camera, or for his eyes only, to determine whether a "show cause" hearing should be held probably in two months for the DCI show why it should not make those records public, he said.
However, Sullins denied another motion from Lovcom, Inc., to have the DCI publicly provide a log, or index, of the actions that it, the Casper Police Department and the City of Casper took during its investigations of these cases.
The granting of one motion and the denial of another mark the latest actions in the petition filed by Lovcom on May 30 demanding the release of the records of the investigations. Casper Interim Police Chief Steve Schulz turned over the records of the Richardson investigation on May 18 and the records of the McMurry suicide on June 7.
Schulz said in a Sept. 8 deposition in the case that the previous administration of the police department may have hindered the Richardson investigation by not taking a broader approach. "And I think the detectives didn't have free reign to investigate the case as a case that needs to be investigated, just go ahead and just, you know, put their head down to the grindstone and get it taken care of."
Because the police department turned over the records, Sullins granted Casper City Attorney William Chambers motion to dismiss the city and Interim Casper Police Chief Steve Schulz as defendants in the case.
Lovcom, owned by Sheridan businessman Kim Love, sued the DCI, the city and Schulz after the police department declined requests earlier this year to provide the records under the Wyoming Public Records Act.
"Information regarding the potential connections between McMurry and Richardson are
not cited to prove any such connections exist, but to explain the public interest in determining whether law enforcement officials have turned over every 'stone' in investigating this long unsolved disappearance," Lovcom's attorney Bruce Moats wrote.
Moats said Lovcom was flying blind and in a Catch-22, in effect, because it wants the release of records that are confidential, but can't know what to ask for because they confidential.
But Wyoming Assistant Attorney General John Brodie, speaking to the court by telephone, said releasing a log or other information could jeopardize what he said were the two criminal investigations: Richardson's disappearance and McMurry's "death."
Brodie did not call McMurry's death a suicide, which is what has been reported since he died March 10, 2015.
During the motions hearing Monday, Moats argued Sullins should grant two motions.
- Ask the DCI to give its records to the judge so he can review them and then determine whether he should hold a "show cause" hearing so the DCI should defend keeping them secret.
- Ask the DCI to provide a "privilege log" of the actions involved in the investigation.
Sullins said the DCI should turn those records over to him in 30 days. He will then review them for 30 days and decide about a "show cause" hearing.
Those records will cover the police department's investigations from the time of Richardson's disappearance on Oct. 6, 2014, to when Schulz turned them over to the DCI, and up to when he turned over the records of McMurry's death to DCI on June 7.
He denied the motion about the "privilege log," but said he may change that after he reviews the other records.
Brodie adamantly opposed both Lovcom motions on legal and practical grounds.
The case law cited by Moats was for investigations that had been completed, Brodie said.
The DCI has had the cases for only four months, and they are active and growing criminal investigations, he said.
Releasing the information about the investigations, either totally or by a log, would reveal the directions of the investigations, which could result in a person of interest destroying evidence, Brodie said.
And having the DCI compile the records would take time away from the investigations themselves, he added.
"It is too preliminary and we ask both motions be denied," Brodie said.
Moats said he agreed with most of what Brodie said, although the court should consider the public interest.
Lovcom wants resolution, he said. "Our purpose is not to interfere with this case."