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Following closing statements in the Leon Ford trial, the jury is deliberating



Helena, Montana – Tuesday morning in Helena saw the conclusion of Ford’s three-week premeditated homicide trial following final statements from both the prosecution and defense.

Ford is suspected of murdering John “Mike” Crites in 2011. In 2011 and 2012, the dismembered remains of Crites were found in two places close to MacDonald Pass.

In a remote location outside Birdseye, northwest of Helena, along Turk Road, Ford and Crites owned properties close to one another. Long-standing land access issues between the two individuals led to Crites blocking Ford’s entrance to his land with a gate. That matter, according to the prosecution, gave Ford motivation.

Prosecuting attorney Leo Gallagher said that while many of the Turk Road neighborhood’s residents were involved in disputes, including some with Crites, the situation altered after Ford moved to Montana from his residence in Washington state.

Mike Crites abruptly vanished as a result of Leon Ford’s visit, he claimed. “Leon Ford returns for the first time since 2007 and he’s going to get his way,” a party said. “That’s the variable that’s introduced into this ongoing dispute.”

As Ford wasn’t detained until 2020, it took years for anyone to be charged in connection with Crites’ death. The county attorney at the time of the murder, Gallagher, claimed Tuesday that Ford was implicated early on and that the case grew stronger over time.

A neighbor’s cameras, according to the prosecution, captured Ford’s truck driving near Crites’ property around the time of Crites’ last phone contact. They claim that as part of his duties at a military base in Washington, Ford had asked for huge cable ties like the ones discovered with Crites’ remains. Ford was also charged with lying to police about his behavior in the days leading up to Crites’ disappearance.

He has an impeccable memory of everything, with the exception of what happened on June 26, 27, and 28, according to Gallagher. “Suddenly, he is all over the place telling different stories about what happened that are demonstrably false.”

Defense lawyers have maintained continuously throughout the trial that there is no proof connecting Ford directly to the crime. They questioned whether Ford ever received ties from his employer and whether or not they even belonged to the same category as the ties discovered at the scene. They contended that it was obvious the cameras didn’t capture every vehicle that passed by on the route.

When, when, and how Crites was killed, as well as how and when his remains were disposed of, according to defense attorney Palmer Hoovestal, are still too much of a mystery for a jury to find Ford guilty.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is all proof of doubt, he declared. Other people who wanted Mike Crites dead, other people who disliked him, and other people who would gain from his death had plenty of opportunity to murder him.

According to Hoovestal, contradictory statements to police would not be sufficient to establish Ford’s involvement.

Ford testified throughout the trial in his own defense and vehemently denied killing Crites. Ford had the law on his side in his property dispute with Crites, according to Hoovestal, so there was no justification for him to kill the man.

He is a distinguished combat veteran, and according to him, he is the sort of person who does what is right and follows instructions. What, because he has a barricade across the road? “He is the kind of guy that would not freak out and suddenly kill Michael Crites for whatever reason.”

Tuesday afternoon, the jury began deliberations; by early Tuesday evening, no decision had been announced. Once a decision is made public, MTN will provide comprehensive updates.

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