Written by Herald-News
The 23rd annual Poplar Indian Days celebration was held under the arbor in American Legion Park, Friday through Sunday, Sept. 4, 5 and 6. Indian Days [formerly the Iron Ring Celebration] is a long-standing Labor Day weekend tradition that celebrates Native American dance and culture. This child was one many children that participated. (Photos by John Plestina)
Written by John Plestina
The first picture is Nicole Waller and the second is Cody Johnston.
A Fairview man has been charged with the murder of his former girlfriend, Nicole Yvonne “Nicky” Waller of Kalispell, now missing 31 months since her SUV was found abandoned on the shoulder of the westbound lane of U.S. Hwy. 2 about one mile west of Poplar.
Authorities believe that Waller, who was 31 when she was last heard from on Feb. 14, 2013, might have been murdered because of an alleged love triangle. Her body has never been located and authorities presume that she met with foul play on Feb. 14, 2013.
Cody Wayne Johnston, 36, is charged with deliberate homicide and tampering with physical evidence. He is lodged in the Richland County Justice Center, held on $250,000 bail.
Deliberate homicide carries maximum sentences of death and life in prison. Tampering with physical evidence carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine up to 50,000. The tampering with physical evidence charge is for allegedly concealing or removing Waller’s body, according to the arrest warrant.
Richland County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Montana Department of Criminal Investigation agents arrested Johnston without incident at a commercial fueling station in Sidney Monday, Aug. 24, at 4:18 p.m.
Johnston appeared before Justice of the Peace Greg Mohr on Aug. 25, and an initial appearance was set for Wednesday, Sept. 9, before District Judge Katherine Bidegaray in 7th District Court in Sidney.
Brant Light, a Montana assistant attorney general, is prosecuting the case as a special deputy county attorney for Richland County.
Johnston is from Kalispell, worked for an oilfield trucking company and lived in Fairview.
Johnston told investigator that he knew Waller in high school in Kalispell and reconnected years later on Facebook. A relationship developed between them.
The charging documents also allege that Johnston told the detectives that Waller lived with him in Fairview for a month or less prior to her disappearance.
Johnston also alleged to police that Waller had a drug problem. He claimed she had an opiate problem that was related to health problems, that he wanted her to go to drug treatment and she did not want to go, straining the relationship, according to the charging documents.
Johnston claimed to investigators that Waller called him the morning of Feb. 14, 2013 and told him she decided to leave and was driving back to Kalispell.
He also told them he stayed overnight at his employer’s shop because Waller was calling and yelling at him, according to court documents.
According to court documents, the Flathead County Sheriffs Office in Kalispell received a call from a friend of Waller on Feb. 16, 2013, saying that Waller had not returned home from visiting Johnston in Sidney. Waller’s friend told a Sheriff’s investigator that Waller told her she would be leaving the Sidney-Fairview area Feb. 14, 2013, at about 7:30 a.m., to drive home and was due in Kalispell that night.
The FCSO placed an attempt to locate on Waller’s vehicle and learned that the Montana Highway Patrol had located the SUV and placed an abandonment sticker on it.
Johnston claimed to authorities that he had assumed Waller was home in Kalispell until her sister, Carmen Keibler, called him and said she was missing and her vehicle was found near Poplar.
Keibler contacted the Sidney Police Department reporting her sister missing. Sidney police contacted Johnston.
The charging documents allege that Keibler told law enforcement that her sister’s relationship with Johnston was turbulent with several breakups. She also told authorities that Waller had medical problems.
Dateline NBC featured the Waller case in February 2014. The national television news magazine alleged that Waller had driven more than 500 miles from her home in western Montana in February 2013 to confront Johnston about his seeing another woman while he was in a relationship with her.
Court documents state that Keibler told police her sister had learned that Johnston was involved with another woman. Keibler told the FCSO that once Waller learned about the other woman, she went to Fairview in January 2013, confronted Johnston about his other relationship and claimed she was pregnant, which was fictitious. Keibler is alleged to have told authorities that Waller texted her saying it was not going well between her and Johnston and she was leaving to return to Kalispell.
Johnston’s other girlfriend told a FCSO investigator that she had given Johnston an ultimatum to end his relationship with Waller.
Keibler also told investigators that her sister told her she had gotten into a physical fight with Johnston and drove from Fairview to a hotel in Malta.
A former boyfriend of Waller and another friend later picked up Waller in Malta. He told FCSO investigators that Waller had claimed to be afraid of Johnston. The former boyfriend also alleged that Johnston had threatened him and told him to not have any contact with Waller.
Waller’s former husband, Jason Waller, told the FPSO that Waller called him from Fairview the morning of Feb. 14, 2013, and told him she was leaving that morning to drive to Kalispell. He told sheriff’s investigators that Johnston had padlocked Nicole Waller’s house in Kalispell. Johnston is alleged to have bought the house for Waller, but he is the legal owner, according to other information in the charging documents.
Verizon Wireless advised the FCSO that Waller’s cell phone had been powered down and that the last usage was on Feb. 14, at 7:25 a.m.
According to the charging documents, evidence suggests that Johnston killed Waller on the morning of Feb. 14 and later disposed of her body in a barrel in an unknown location.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which became involved in the case soon after Waller was reported missing, viewed video footage from the Culbertson High School surveillance camera on Feb. 22, 2013, that showed Waller’s Ford Expedition traveling west through Culbertson shortly after she was alleged to have left Fairview. A red 2002 Ford F350 Super Duty pickup with amber lights on top of the cab followed. The FBI determined that a coworker of Johnston owned the truck and contacted that man. He said he believed Johnston killed Waller, according to court documents. He also told investigators that Johnston came to his residence and asked him for an old barrel, which he did not have. Johnston then asked him to meet him on the highway, follow him out of Fairview and give him a ride back from Poplar, which he did. That man said Johnston left Waller’s SUV on the side of the road.
The FBI remained involved with the case for about eight months, but turned it over to the Montana Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation at the end of October 2013.
A search warrant was obtained for Waller’s SUV. The Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice and FBI processed the vehicle. Two live guinea pigs that belong to Waller’s daughter were found inside the vehicle along with clothing, household objects and toiletries.
FPTDLJ chief investigator Ken Trottier told The Herald-News earlier this year that investigators had confirmed that someone other than Waller brought the SUV to the location where it was found in Roosevelt County.
Waller had three children ages 9, 11 and 13 at the time of her disappearance.
A friend established a Facebook page called Find Nicole Waller less than two weeks after she was reported missing.
Written by John Plestina
Pictured are, in order of the photos, Dezi Adams, Kathy Adkins, Karen Ley, Bobbie Munger, Kristi Raap and Debbie Tubbs.
Northside Elementary School is welcoming new teachers, a counselor, librarian and a principal who was promoted.
Dezi Adams has returned to Northside School as a fourth grade teacher long after she attended Northside.
Adams, who went through Wolf Point schools and graduated from Wolf Point High School, left Wolf Point more than two decades ago to pursue a career in education after working as a paraprofessional at Southside School during the 1993-1994 school year.
Adams graduated from Dickinson State University in North Dakota and earned a master’s degree from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Ariz. She has taught in South Dakota and Arizona, the last 14 years in Phoenix.
Adams has a lot of family in Wolf Point and returned for several summer vacations.
Sixteen-year veteran Wolf Point School District educator Kathy Adkins moved up to principal from fourth grade teacher at Northside last year. She previously taught 14 years at Southside School.
Adkins was born in Wolf Point and graduated from Nashua High School. She currently lives in Nashua.
The mother of two children is a graduate of Montana State University Northern and has a master’s degree from Concordia University in Portland, Ore.
Special education teacher Karen Ley is a former Poplar School District teacher who came to Wolf Point from Alaska, where she taught a total of five years.
Ley taught in Wasilla, which is about an hour drive north of Anchorage, and in the Yup’ik Eskimo villages of Kalskag and Tununak.
She was born and raised in Bozeman.
New fifth grade teacher Bobbie Munger is a licensed pilot who occasionally takes to the skies.
Munger, who hails from the Syracuse, N.Y. area, has eight years of teaching experience in locations that include Virginia, Arkansas and Idaho. She moved to Wolf Point after taking time off from teaching and working for Federal Express in Bozeman.
Kristi Raap comes to Northside as the new school librarian and a teacher.
She is a certified teacher and has worked as a teacher and school librarian in Watford City, N.D.
Raap is originally from Wallace, Idaho.
Fifteen-year Wolf Point resident Debbie Tubbs comes to Northside as a counselor after working at Youth Dynamics in Wolf Point.
Tubbs previously worked in Austin, Texas. She was born and raised in Glasgow.
“I was a Scottie and now I am a Wolf,” she said.
Written by John Plestina
The first photo is a booking photo of Roy Allen Murray Jr., from Multnomah County, Ore., taken earlier this year that was available for the print edition of The Herald-News. The second photo is the booking photo from the Roosevelt County Jail that was not available by deadline time.
A fugitive from Oregon with over $4 million bail and 22 felony charges was arrested after crashing an SUV near Wolf Point Sunday, Sept. 6.
The Montana Highway Patrol and Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice both responded to a single vehicle rollover crash on U.S. Hwy. 2, about five miles west of Wolf Point that was reported at 6:20 a.m.
MHP Sgt. Jeff Kent identified the sole occupant of the 2000 Ford Explorer as Roy Allen Murray Jr., 30, of Portland, Ore.
Kent said Murray was traveling eastbound on Hwy. 2, crossed the center line, went off the north side of the highway, struck a delineator post and veered across both traffic lanes before going off the south side of the road and rolling multiple times.
Murray was taken to the Roosevelt County Jail where he is held on five new charges in addition to the charges in Oregon. The local charges are DUI drugs, criminal possession of dangerous drugs, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia, driving without insurance and driving with a suspended Oregon license.
Kent said he did not know what drug was found, but Murray was charged under a state opiate and methamphetamine statute.
Oregon authorities allege that Murray and another man wearing ski masks used duct tape and zip ties to bind the hands of two men during a drug-related armed robbery and kidnapping at gun point at a car detailing business in Gresham Ore., a Portland suburb, on July 11. It is alleged that one victim was struck on the head with the gun handle and kicked several times after one of the assailants fired a round with a handgun.
It is alleged that Murray and the other man accused in the case, Joshua Ty McCann, 36, of Portland had a female accomplice.
The victims identified Murray and McCann from a police throw down of suspect photos.
Both Murray and McCann were charged with three counts of first-degree kidnapping with a firearm, two counts of first-degree burglary with a firearm, six counts of first-degree robbery with a firearm, six counts of second-degree robbery with a firearm, two counts of second-degree assault with a firearm and one count of unlawful use of a firearm. Murray faces two additional counts of first-degree burglary with a firearm.
Bail has been set at over $4 million each.
Written by John Plestina
The Roosevelt County DUI Task Force was told that the recent Montana Department of Revenue liquor law training class in Wolf Point was successful and informative during the local task force meeting in Wolf Point Wednesday, Sept. 2.
The law enforcement training session was held Wednesday, Aug. 26, with members of the Wolf Point Police Department, Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office and Montana Highway Patrol taking the half-day class.
Wolf Point Police Chief Jeff Harada said information was provided about how state law relates to bar closing times on dates of changes between daylight savings and standard time.
“If you give someone an extra hour at a tavern, he could go from .24 to .3 in an hour,” Wolf Point police chief Jeff Harada said.
He said he will write letters to bar owners clarifying the law.
There was also a discussion about higher fees for people getting DUIs and drugs becoming more of a problem with impaired drivers.
Montana Highway Patrol trooper Derek Werner said 70 to 80 percent of DUI arrests are people impaired by drugs.
Roosevelt County received $10,950 for the task force as funding allowed by House Bill 132 that Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law in April. It reallocates unspent special revenue funds from driver’s license reinstatement fees collected in counties that do not have task forces and distributes those monies on an equal basis to Roosevelt and the other counties that have task forces on July 1 of each year.
County commissioner Gary Macdonald, who also chairs the DUI Task Force, initially anticipated about $18,000 for Roo-sevelt County, but that amount has shrunk because of an increase in the number of DUI task forces in Montana from 34 to 38. The increase is due to the passage of HB 132 and funding it created.
The task force, a citizens group appointed by the county commissioners that includes representatives of several law enforcement agencies and members of the public, plans and funds public education, awareness and enforcement projects to reduce the number of alcohol and drug related crashes and deaths in Roosevelt County.