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Murder suspects plead not guilty in Montana

Jan 5, 2018 By Kelli Ameling, Staff Wrier

Two men have entered not guilty pleas in the death of a former Lander man.

Donald Cherry, 31, and Jeffrey Haverty, 33, both of Billings, Montana, pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Dec. 21 in Yellowstone County District Court.

They are charged with the deliberate homicide of Myron Knight, 41, recently of Lander.

Police say Knight was decapitated.

A deliberate homicide charge is as felony punishable by life imprisonment, or by 10-100 year in prison.

Both men also face a consecutive sentence of two to 10 years for use of a dangerous weapon.

Body found in November

Police responded Nov. 15 to a wooded area near an irrigation canal in Billings after receiving a report that a decapitated body had been found.

The body was in the center of what appeared to be a transient campsite, clothed in boxer shorts, an undershirt and a T-shirt, according to court documents. The body was covered in a piece of carpet, leaves and branches.

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

Fingerprints were obtained to identify Knight.

An autopsy performed Nov. 17 showed Knight's body had bruises on the torso, hands, arms and legs, and there were multiple injuries to his face and skull, along with skull fractures. Preliminary reports show the blunt force injuries could have been caused by a narrow object.

"It was more probable than not the act of decapitation occurred while Knight was still alive," court documents stated, citing evidence of bruising fond in microscopic analysis of the bodily tissues at the margin of the decapitation wounds.

Informant

An affidavit indicates Haverty's girlfriend, only identified as ZW, told police she stayed at a campsite with Haverty, Cherry and Knight on the evening of Oct. 26.

At some point she left the camp for about 15-20 minutes, and she said Knight was still alive at that time.

Video surveillance confirmed that she had been at a local convenience store that evening.

When she returned, she said Knight was on the ground by the fire pit with blood on his neck.

"She thought Knight was dead and made reference that he was not breathing," the documents state. "ZW said she watched as Haverty began to cut off Knight's head with a knife, but Haverty began to have difficulty so Cherry took over and he finished cutting off Knight's head."

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

"ZW denied being present when Knight was killed, but said Cherry told her Haverty struck Knight in the head with a ball peen hammer," the documents state, adding the men were going to "dismember Knight and burn his remains in the fire pit." "That did not occur, but ZW said the two men burned the clothing they were wearing at the time of the crime in the fire pit along with Knight's clothing and cellular phone."

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

"After the killing of Knight, she said the three went to the Magic Diamond Casino and played the gambling machines," the documents stated.

Based on her information, detectives went back to the campsite and found a burned cellular phone, remains of a camp chair with possible blood on the leg, socks and knit gloves.

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

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