Volume 8, Number 49 - February 26, 2009
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Ehlers ‘cold case’ digs up new clues
You can hear it in his voice.
Sublette County Sheriff’s Investigations Capt. Brian Ketterhagen is very excited about new leads generated by the revelation last week he and his team are looking to solve the June 21, 1984, shooting murder of Jackson resident, Lisa Miles Ehlers, 27, in a Bondurant roadside pull-out.
“Yet another lead is being followed up that came in today,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “More information has been brought in to the sheriff ’s department.”
He declined to provide any further details, only saying his detectives will follow the leads and perhaps travel out of town this week.
Teton County Patrol Sgt. Lloyd Funk was a student at Jackson Hole High School when the killing took place. After joining the sheriff ’s department, Funk pored over the DCI and other investigative files searching for a solution between 1999 and 2003, he said this week.
He tried from time to time to generate more interest from Sublette County but felt “there wasn’t a lot of correspondence between our organizations at that time.”
“I did put a lot of work into it,” Funk said, adding he wants to see the case “closed out.”
He is “really happy” the cold case was reopened and new leads discovered.
“It sounds like they’re heading down a pretty positive path,” Funk said, and while he looked at a “different avenue” both counties’ investigations might lead to about the same place.
Ketterhagen was asked by Sheriff Bardy Bardin to take a look at the 25-year-old case when he was appointed captain of investigations last fall. It had been in the hands of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) for a number of years before being sent back to Sublette County.
This entry, under “DCI cold cases,” is posted on the Attorney General’s web site:
“Homicide, June 21, 1984, Sublette County, Wyoming: On June 21, 1984, Lisa Miles EHLERS, age 27, was found next to her car at a road side pull out next to the river on Wyoming State Route 189 between Hoback Junction and Pinedale, Wyoming.
She had been shot twice with a handgun, once to the head and to the chest. Personal items and money were left at the scene in the car. The car was in park and the engine of the car was left running.
Lisa EHLERS was a resident of Jackson, Wyoming. Lisa and her spouse had run a restaurant in Jackson. She was on her way to Florida. Anyone with information regarding this case is urged to contact the Sublette County Sheriff ’s Office at (307) 357-6593 or the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation at (307) 777-7181.”
Sublette County’s unsolved mystery has haunted investigators, journalists and the public for years. It was widely believed another unsolved Teton County murder – and perhaps a third – was connected although Funk explained no concrete links were traced other than the fi rst two victims likely were acquainted.
On May 12, 1984, shortly before Ehlers’ murder, Jon William Rice, 26, was found shot to death with a .22-caliber rifle in an Aspens condo in Teton County. In spite of much speculation, a solid motive for that crime wasn’t uncovered at that time, as in Ehlers’ case.
In March 2006, journalist Gil Brady interviewed Funk about the Ehlers case and cited “strange coincidences” among the deaths of Rice, Ehlers and Eric James Cooper, who disappeared in October 1983. Cooper’s partially bound bones and skull – with a .22-caliber slug inside – were found in August 1986 by hikers on Signal Mountain in Grand Teton National Park. Cooper’s murder became another Teton County unsolved mystery.
In 2007, Brady wrote another indepth article, “Wyoming Cops Tighten Noose Around 23-Year-Old Murder,” about the three murders, saying passersby reportedly witnessed two white men standing over Ehlers’ body and a “dark sedan parked nearby.”
Brady also discussed other in-depth details he learned of these cases over the years including bank investigations, an embezzling attorney, cocaine shipments and a safe-deposit box containing a .22-caliber gun.
Several months later, Brady reported Sublette officials released a composite sketch made in 1986 of a man believed to be involved in Ehlers’ death, with a Prince-Valiant haircut.
Even when Teton County Sheriff Bob Zimmer announced his retirement last November, he commented on a couple regrets from his career in a Planet Jackson Hole interview. A reader identified only as “Dead Man Telling Tales” emailed in a comment on Zimmer’s regrets.
“I know he wasn’t sheriff at the time (he was a TOJ sergeant) but those Lisa Ehlers/Jon Rice murders had to weigh on every law enforcement officer in the area,” the reader wrote.
“The ironic thing is, it is widely believed that these murders were ‘solved.’
Solid evidence may be lacking but thanks to good detective work, both TCSO and state DCI know who the players are, perhaps even the trigger men in both cases. So technically, while these cases are ‘solved,’ there has been no justice, and THAT should be keeping him up at night. Some of those believed responsible are now dead. No one to protect now? It’s time the truth was told.”
Anyone with information about this case can call Capt. Ketterhagen at the SCSO, 367-6593.
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