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Scales of justice

Rory Wanner had a bad feeling about going to Tyler Crawford’s house the night he disappeared in late June.

He was going to the Heights home on June 28 to conduct a drug deal, but feared he was being set up after arguing sometime earlier with Crawford’s friend Michael Scott LeClair.

The argument was apparently over Wanner showing Crawford’s girlfriend text messages LeClair had sent to Wanner’s girlfriend. It isn’t clear what those text messages were about.

At the house, LeClair and Wanner fought until Wanner “was quivering a bit, like a seizure,” Crawford told investigators. Soon after, people in the house realized Wanner “had stopped breathing,” Crawford said.

Those details were revealed this week in a Yellowstone County District Court affidavit charging LeClair, 35, and 37-year-old William James Hoffert III with two felony counts each of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

Prosecutors haven't charged anyone yet for Wanner's death.

Wanner's family reported him missing June 30 after he didn’t return from the June 28 meeting at Crawford’s house. On Sunday, July 30, a landowner south of Roundup found a badly decomposed body in a shallow grave. Forensic specialists were called in to identify the body and cause of death. An identification of that body hasn’t been released. Law enforcement's search for Wanner, 33, of Billings, have been centered in Roundup.

Crawford later told investigators he was told to lure Wanner to his house on June 28 for the confrontation under the guise of selling meth. Wanner had originally planned to bring his girlfriend but Crawford told him not to, documents state.

Before Wanner arrived that night, three men at Crawford’s home took phones away from everyone in the room and asked some people to leave, telling them they’d get their phones back later. Those men were Hoffert, LeClair and Joe, who was not identified by his last name, the charges state.

Witnesses said Wanner had arrived at Crawford’s home around 11 p.m., where he was confronted by LeClair. The pair then fought until LeClair “got the best of” Wanner, Crawford told investigators.

Crawford said he was then told to clean up the house while Hoffert and LeClair removed Wanner’s body, the affidavit alleged. Crawford said he did not know where they took the body.

Crawford told investigators he put a rag he used to clean up the blood and the victim's clothing in a plastic bag and threw it into a green garbage bin. Later LeClair and Hoffert returned and took the bin away, the tampering charges allege.

LeClair has posted $50,000 bond and was ordered to be on GPS monitoring.

Hoffert appeared in Yellowstone County District Court on Thursday via video from the county jail. Hoffert also appeared in court Thursday on one felony count of criminal endangerment for a road rage incident in which prosecutors say Hoffert shot at another car driven by a man with his wife and daughters as passengers. Hoffert says he did not shoot at the car but threw a firecracker at it. Hoffert’s bond is set at $700,000.

Prosecutors declined to say whether additional charges would be filed.


Justice Reporter

Justice reporter for the Billings Gazette.