CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A special prosecutor is leading a criminal inquiry into how former Sublette County law enforcement officers handled the investigation of a Montana man who was convicted of murder but later cleared.
Troy Willoughby, of Wickes, was convicted in 2010 in the 1984 killing of Lisa Ehlers. His conviction was overturned after Sublette County Attorney Neal Stelting announced in 2011 that investigators had failed to disclose possibly exculpatory evidence to Willoughby's attorneys.
Willoughby was acquitted at his second trial last year. He served three years in custody before he was released, and now is pressing a federal lawsuit seeking unspecified damages from two former officers of the Sublette County Sheriff's Office and a former investigator with the County Attorney's Office.
Court records show Sheridan County Attorney Matt Redle is working as a special prosecutor with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation to examine the officers' conduct. Redle declined comment Friday on the status of the investigation.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin in Cheyenne has ordered the parties to meet with him later this month for a settlement conference.
In 2011, Stelting disclosed that investigators had withheld from Willoughby's original defense team a police report written by officers in the town of Daniel, about 65 miles southeast of Jackson. According to the report, Daniel officers had met with Willoughby shortly after midnight on June 21, 1984, the day of Ehlers' death.
Willoughby's lawyers have argued that the police report showed he wasn't involved in Ehler's killing.
Willoughby's pending lawsuit contends that Brian Ketterhagen and Sarah Brew, former officers of the Sublette County Sheriff's Office, and a former investigator for the County Attorney's Office, Randall Hanson, failed to turn over the police report for his first trial.
The lawsuit also states that Deputy Lance Gehlhausen of the Sublette County Sheriff's Office secretly recorded the other three members of the investigative team. The lawsuit says the recording shows they knew they should have turned over the police report but didn't because they didn't want Willoughby to go free.
Casper lawyer Ian Sandefer, who represents Willoughby, declined to comment Friday.
Sandefer filed a subpoena a few months ago seeking records from the Division of Criminal Investigation regarding Willoughby's case. In response, Redle filed a request to quash the subpoena, saying he's been appointed to act as special prosecutor and is working with a division agent to examine the former officers' conduct.
"The appointment has been made for the purpose of investigating, and if determined appropriate, prosecuting individuals for any criminal offenses committed in connection with the prosecution of the plaintiff (Willoughby) herein for the murder of Elizabeth Miles Ehlers and which resulted in the plaintiff's conviction on or about Jan. 29, 2010," Redle wrote.
Lawyers for Hanson, Ketterhagen and Brew all declined to comment Friday.