BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Two teens were due in a Wyoming court Tuesday in the killing of three members of a family in a town near the Montana border where residents said they’ve been left shaken by the unaccustomed violence.
Park County Sheriff Scott Steward said 19-year-old Stephen Hammer and 18-year-old Tanner Vanpelt were arrested after neighbors gave deputies a description of two men seen entering the house where the victim’s bodies were found.
The neighbors saw two vehicles speeding away, including a black Audi belonging to 40-year-old Ildiko Freitas, who owned the house with her husband.
Freitas and her parents, 69-year-old Janos and 70-year-old Hildegard Volgyesi, were found dead inside the house. At least two of the victims had been shot.
The sheriff issued a statement describing the Saturday shootings as “nothing short of cold-blooded murder.” But he gave no indication of motive, and his office declined to release details, citing the ongoing investigation.
Thomas Volgyesi, the son of the two elder victims and brother to Freitas, said Monday that he knew of no connection between the suspects and his family.
Residents could not recall a murder in recent decades in Clark, a rural community dominated by ranching and farming. The town has only a few businesses and no post office, and its roughly 300 residents are scattered across a broad river valley framed by the Beartooth Mountains that rise up to the west. The closest large towns, Powell and Cody, are more than 30 miles away.
Connie Morris, manager of the Edelweiss — a combination convenience store, restaurant and bar that is Clark’s most prominent business — said the last violent death she could recall there was in the 1970s, when a woman was found dead in a creek.
Foul play was initially suspected in that case but later ruled out, residents said.
“There wasn’t enough people here to have many problems,” Morris said. “I’m afraid it’s permeated into God’s country now. I hate to see it. It was the one place I always knew of that didn’t have problems.”
One of the victims’ neighbors, Robert Bushman, speculated that the suspects were interested primarily in stealing Freitas’ Audi. He said another neighbor who had watched the suspects approach the residence estimated that they were in the house for 20 minutes at most.
Thomas Volgyesi said his parents retired to Wyoming four years ago because of its more relaxed lifestyle, after leaving their longtime home in southern California.
They lived in a separate house on the same property as their daughter and her husband, John, who works in the oil industry and was away for work at the time of the killings, Volgyesi said.
Ildiko Freitas grew up in Bakersfield, Calif., and later attended the University of Wyoming before moving to Clark six or seven years ago.
“They were the only family I have and I’m left with nothing now,” Volgyesi said. “To have them taken away from me like this, I’m not registering it yet.”
Vanpelt’s father said Monday that his son had not been in serious trouble prior to his Saturday arrest. Robb Vanpelt said his son had not been living with him and the accusation he was involved in a triple homicide was “pretty much totally out of the blue.”
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