From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 38 - December 14, 2006
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Former Sublette County Sheriff’s investigator stabbed to death

by Trey Wilkinson

A former Sublette County Sheriff’s investigator was stabbed late Friday night in Helena, Mont., and died of his wounds shortly thereafter at St. Peter’s Hospital.

Paul Anthony Raftery, age 41, had been working as a law clerk for a state Supreme Court justice.

According to court documents, shortly after 11 p.m. on Dec. 8, the Helena 911 Dispatch Center received two citizen’s calls asking for help for a man who was eventually identified as Raftery, who was bleeding outside the home at 421 West Lawrence, Helena Lewis and Clark County, Mont.

Emergency responders found Raftery outside the home, unresponsive and bleeding from a stab wound to his back and transported him to Helena’s Saint Peter’s Hospital where he was dead on arrival.

At autopsy the medical examiner determined Raftery, died as the result of a stab wound to his back that was likely inflicted with a weapon that was approximately 2 1/2 inches in width and more than 5” in length.

According to the documents, investigators found a cell phone on Raftery and by reviewing recent calls contacted a woman who met Raftery with other Supreme Court employees at Bert & Ernie’s Saloon and Restaurant on Helena’s Last Chance Gultch, located on Main Street.

The group viewed a football game between the Universities of Montana and Massachusetts.

Based upon interviews with those who were with Raftery during the evening preceding his death, investigators believe Raftery had little if any cash and was walking home from downtown Helena.

Located outside the residence at 421 West Lawrence Street was blood suggesting that this was the place where Raftery was attacked and that he made his way to the door of the residence to call out for help, resulting in one of the occupants of the house, Sandy Johnson, calling 911 for help.

According to Helena Police Chief Troy McGee, two individuals were arrested on Monday.

Travis Wayne Kirkbride, 18, has been charged with deliberate homicide section 1A.

“Kirkbride is the person we believe did the stabbing,” McGee said.

Robert Allen Rickman, 18, has been charged with deliberate homicide section 1B, meaning he was with Kirkbride, but didn’t actually perform the stabbing.

McGee said through investigation and phone calls from people who were aware of the incident police were able to make the arrests.

According to court documents, Kirkbride indicated that he and Rickman went to the downtown Helena area in a friend’s vehicle and that before leaving the vehicle Kirkbride found a hunting knife within the vehicle. Kirkbride indicated he and Rickman left the vehicle after seeing a man walking up Lawrence Street in a westerly direction and they approached the man on the north side of Lawrence where Rickman struck the man in the face and the man then ran across the street where Kirkbride stabbed him in the back with the hunting knife. Rickman then ran after the fleeing victim and tripped him to the ground where he removed from the victim his wallet.

“We believe it was a robbery,” McGee said.

Both Kirkbride and Rickman are currently being held in the Lewis and Clark County Detention Facility in Helena.

According to McGee, homicides are fairly uncommon in Helena.

“We still have a lot of work left to do on this case,” McGee said.

Many will remember Raftery, who spent a number of years in Sublette County.

“He was one of the most kind and honest people I ever knew,” said M.L. Baxley, office manager at the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office. “He was a great officer and greater person.”

Raftery spent eight years at the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office, one of those as an investigator.

“It’s rotten that something like this happened,” Lt. Hayes Randol said. “He was a great person and a great cop. He was such a morally and ethically solid person. He’ll be sorely missed.”

Investigator Toby Terrell had the opportunity to work with Raftery when Terrell was just a patrol deputy.

“Paul was one of the reasons I looked to move on to becoming an investigator,” Terrell said. “He was a true professional.”

Even those who didn’t work with Raftery for an extended period of time, like Detective Sgt. K.C. Lehr, knew of his care for others and dedication to his job.

“What I did know of Paul was that he was very genuine,” Lehr said. “He was dedicated to his work and what he did.”

Sheriff Barty Bardin was unavailable for comment.

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