Wyoming Man Charged With First-Degree Murder in Lovell Slaying
A man who was arrested Thursday in Mills is accused of planning to kill a woman before stabbing her to death at his Lovell apartment on Thursday.
Donald Joe Crouse, 48, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 49-year-old Carol Jean Barnes. According to charging documents filed in Big Horn County Circuit Court, authorities will seek to prosecute Crouse as a habitual criminal.
Police say Crouse and Barnes were previously involved in a relationship, but were not living together at the time of the killing.
Court documents say at about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Big Horn County Sheriff's deputies and Lovell police officers responded to Crouse's apartment at 472 W. 7th Street in Lovell to conduct a welfare check on Barnes.
Barnes's son had called police and said he received an "SOS" text message from his mother, which reportedly said, "I need help."
Officers arrived at the apartment and found blood near the front door, as well as on the door jamb.
An officer went into the apartment and found Barnes, dead, lying on the floor between the couch and a coffee table. Barnes had evidently been stabbed with a sharp object.
The affidavit says there was a large amount of blood inside the apartment, and multiple knives with blood were also found in the home.
Investigators found at least five handwritten notes, allegedly left by Crouse, in the apartment.
The first note, reportedly signed by Crouse and dated Jan. 4, read, "Carol has lied, manipulated, cheated on me and [expletive removed] me over beyond all possible thought. I have done what I've done to end that pain and be able to rest in peace with self respect."
A second note read, "if you want to know what caused this, read the memos in my phone, sealteam5 is the code, my mission is explained in there."
A third note, dated Jan. 2, said, "still no word from that happy, whore, but am hoping beyond hope I have not failed my mission to destroy its evil I still wait for my chance, its 3:45 a.m. and I am truly afraid I mist my chance."
Another note from Saturday, Dec. 30, read, "Depression has set in no contact from Carol, I'm starting to fear I lost my chance for revenge."
"Saturday Night December 30, 2017, still no word from Carol, I am deeply worried and troubled that I lost my chance when I did not act upon it," that note continued.
A note from Sunday, Dec. 31, read, "I pray she shows up with the oil or for dinner, and that I didn't miss my chance when I backed out both those times, I just need to have this last chance and I won't mess it up, I'll get the job done."
"Feeling a lot of fear that Carol will not show back up for me to get even," Crouse allegedly wrote. "New Years Day, 2018, Still no sound from her."
An officer spoke with a man who said he spoke to Crouse over the phone at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday. That witness reported that Crouse said he "freaked out" and stabbed Barnes to death.
Police believed Crouse left his apartment in Barnes's Subaru Legacy
In an interview with agents of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation in Casper, Crouse allegedly admitted to killing Barnes with a knife inside his apartment.
Police say Crouse was seen wearing bloody clothing at a convenience store and hospital in Casper.
Crouse was arrested in Mills on Thursday. Lovell Police Chief Dan Laffin said Sunday that Crouse was set to be taken from the Natrona County Detention Center back to be held in Big Horn County Jail pending his initial court appearance.
Crouse's bond was reportedly set at $1 million cash on Monday. A preliminary hearing in the case -- held to establish whether probable cause exists to bind the case over to District Court -- is set for Jan. 17 at 9 a.m. in Big Horn County Circuit Court.