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Lander man's brutal murder outlined in court documents

Dec 7, 2017 By Kelli Ameling, Staff Wrier

Two men have been arrested and charged with deliberate homicide in connection to the death of Myron Knight, 41, formerly of Lander.

Donald Cherry, 31, and Jeffrey Haverty, 33, both presumed homeless in the Billings area, each were charged with the felony, which is punishable by life imprisonment, or by imprisonment of 10-100 years, plus a consecutive sentence of two to 10 years for use of a dangerous weapon.

Decapitated

The same affidavit was filed for both suspects, depicting the crime that happened sometime between Oct. 26 and Nov. 3 in Billings, Montana.

The document indicates the men were trying to rob Knight when they, or possibly someone else involved in the robbery, "caused (his) death" using something like a hammer or a hatchet.

"(They) then used the edged weapon to decapitate him while he was probably still alive," the charging documents state.

Police responded Nov. 15 to a wooded area near an irrigation canal in Billings after receiving a call about a decapitated body found there.

Officials said the body, which was located in the center of what appeared to be a transient campsite, was only clothed in boxer shorts, an undershirt and a t-shirt; the body was covered by a piece of carpet, leaves and branches.

A head was located about 30 feet from the body in a shallow hole, according to reports; the head was wrapped in a red towel and covered in leaves.

Fingerprints were obtained to identify Knight, whose body was autopsied Nov. 17.

The autopsy showed bruises on his torso, hands, arms and legs, and there were multiple injuries to his face and skull, along with skull fractures.

Preliminary reports indicate the blunt force injuries could have been caused by a narrow object.

Examiners also determined it was "more probable than not" that the decapitation occurred while Knight was still alive, based on microscopic analysis of bodily tissue at the margin of the decapitation wounds, court documents state.

Winnings

While investigating the death, detectives spoke with staff members at Montana Lil's Casino in Billings, who talked about a "strange occurrence" that took place at about 10 p.m. Oct. 26 involving Knight, Haverty and Cherry.

The employees said before Knight left the casino he asked an attendant to hold his winnings - about $120 - in case the other men he was with wanted to rob him.

"He also said that if he did not come back, the men he left with were responsible," court documents state.

Haverty had told the staff members that he had recently lost his job, his truck had been stolen, and he was living in a tent by an irrigation ditch, documents state. The attendants said Knight told them he was going to look at Haverty's tent.

The trio then left the casino headed south, according to court documents; surveillance video also showed Knight, Cherry and Haverty leaving the casino after purchasing liquor.

Hatchet

The employees at Montana Lil's also told detectives about two recent disturbances with Haverty involving a hatchet.

The first took place around Oct. 31, when a young man reportedly came into the casino bleeding from his head and asking to use the phone; he later left the area with someone who had arrived to pick him up.

Two days later, Haverty told casino staff he had struck the young man with a hatchet.

Another time, Haverty reportedly entered the casino "flailing his hatchet around." Staff said he told them someone had tried to shoot him in the parking lot.

Denials

Haverty, who was located at a residence where he had been staying for about a week with a friend, confirmed that the incidents at the casino had taken place, explaining that he carries a hatchet for protection.

He also said he had given a hatchet to Cherry and had bought himself a new one, court documents state.

When asked about the evening of Oct. 26, documents state Haverty told police he had left the casino with Knight and Cherry so Knight could "check out the campsite and see Haverty's tent." But he said Knight and Cherry began to "bicker and argue" while they were walking, so Haverty walked ahead to the campsite. After waiting "a long time," he said Cherry and Knight still hadn't shown up, so he left the area. When he returned, he said Cherry showed up about 15 minutes later, and they both went to sleep.

"Haverty said he did not see Knight again, did not know where he went or how his deceased body would come to be in his campsite," the documents state.

Cherry also denied involvement when he was located Nov. 21 staying with his ex-girlfriend. Court documents state told police he had left the casino with Knight and Haverty after gambling and purchasing alcohol, and that all of three of them had then climbed to the roof of an area business and used methamphetamine, according to court documents.

After that, Cherry said he parted ways with Knight and Haverty; he denied going to the campsite that night or seeing Knight again, and he denied involvement in or knowledge of Knight's death and decapitation.

Witness

Documents indicate it was Cherry's girlfriend, identified only as ZW, who told police the men were responsible. She told police she had stayed at the campsite with Cherry and Haverty on the night of Knight's death and had seen Knight alive before she left to go to a local convenience store for 15-20 minutes.

Surveillance video confirmed she had gone to the store, court documents state.

When she returned, she said Knight was on the ground with blood on his neck; she thought Knight was dead and indicated he was not breathing, according to the documents.

"(She) said Cherry told her Haverty struck Knight in the head with a ball peen hammer," the documents state; the men also told her they were going to "dismember Knight and burn his remains in the fire pit."

When asked about a motive, ZW said Haverty had robbed Knight and became "angry at the fact Knight only had $6."

ZW said she watched as Haverty "began to cut Knight's head with a knife."

"Haverty began to have difficulty so Cherry took over and ... finished cutting off Knight's head," the documents state.

After the head was removed, she said it was discarded in foliage until it was later wrapped and placed in a hole.

Instead of burning Knight's remains, ZW said the two men burned the clothing they had been wearing, along with Knight's clothing and cellular phone.

Bond

Both Cherry and Haverty had their initial hearing Dec. 4 in Justice Court.

They are both being held on a $500,000 cash-security bond in Yellowstone County, Montana, and public defenders were ordered for each defendant.

Both were bound over to district court and will have their first appearance at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 21.

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