GREAT FALLS — After years of investigation and a weeklong trial, a jury took four hours to find Wilfred "Bill" Morrisey guilty of killing 9-year-old Dolana Clark in 1988.
"All this time, I knew he was guilty," Dolana's half sister Janine Wall said after the verdict was announced Thursday night. "She lost her whole life — everything was taken when she was so young."
Clark was last seen riding her bike on Aug. 2, 1988. A hunter found her skull, with a bullet hole in it, in the Little Belt Mountains in the fall of 1989.
Morrisey, 65, a Clark family friend, was interviewed after Dolana's disappearance. Friends said Morrisey's demeanor changed dramatically, he severed ties with the Clark family and moved to Illinois a few months later.
Police reopened the case in 2002.
"I'm so pleased that this family has closure after 17 years," said Cascade County Attorney Brant Light. "We've never been afraid to take on cold cases."
During seven hours of police questioning in Colorado in 2002, Morrisey first denied he owned a .22-caliber gun — which experts said was the likely murder weapon. Morrisey later said he had owned one but alternatively sold it, threw it in a river, tossed it in the garbage or out a car window as he drove down the highway.
He eventually led officers to the smashed barrel of a .22-caliber rifle buried in his back yard. Detectives say he destroyed the gun after being tipped to the revived investigation.
"He's giving us denial after denial after denial, but then he turns around and changes his story," Light said Thursday during closing arguments.
Light said the trial was "about a man whose actions and words scream loudly, and if you listen they'll say he's guilty."
Morrisey's attorney, Greg Jackson, argued that there was no physical evidence tying his client to the crime, and said the inconsistencies in Morrisey's stories were because of the time that lapsed since Dolana disappeared.
Morrisey's sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 20.
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