NewsCrime and Courts


Arrest made in the 2011 Helena area murder

Body was found dismembered near MacDonald Pass
Arrest made in the murder of John Michael Crites
Posted at 5:38 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 09:34:54-04

HELENA - Leon Michael Ford has been arrested and is facing charges for the murder of John Michael Crites in Lewis & Clark County.

John Crites’ body was discovered dismembered near MacDonald Pass in June of 2011, and his skull was found in a separate location in September 2012.

Lewis & Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said that Ford was taken into custody in Oak Harbor, Washington, on Wednesday morning (August 19).

Sheriff Dutton said that Ford is facing charges of deliberate homicide and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

According to Dutton, Ford is accused of “purposely or knowingly” causing Crites’ death on or around June 26, 2011, and disturbing Crites’ remains between June 2011 and September 2012 in order to interfere with the investigation.

Crites had been involved in property disputes with several of his neighbors. Dutton said that his death was “quite possibly” linked to a land dispute.

“It’s gratifying to call the family and tell them that an arrest has been made,” said Dutton. “It’s gratifying to my staff to know that arrest has been made. It’s gratifying to the residents of Turk Road to know that an arrest has been made.”

Dutton said he had a unit of cold case investigators working on the case, but that he never considered the investigation “cold.”

“They have put in a lot of time, a lot of effort, gathered a lot of evidence,” he said. “We never gave up, we continued to work leads, we continued to work where we had evidence. There’s been a lot of people, a lot of cooperation to make this happen today.”

When asked if he expected any additional arrests in this case, Dutton said, “Right now, we are focusing on Leon Ford.”

Ford is scheduled to be arraigned in Oak Harbor on Thursday. No other details have been released at this point; we will update you when we get more information.