A new twist in the Plains murder of 17-year-old Steven “Bubba” Ash has state criminal investigators examining the actions of Sanders County Sheriff Gene Arnold.
While mum is the word on the specifics of the state’s investigation, court documents allege that the sheriff implied he needed a material witness, whether one existed or not.
“There is a motion to suppress files, alleging that Mr. Arnold coerced false testimony. We need to respond to that. There’s been an investigation requested. We should have a response based on those results in a week or so,” the state’s Chief Criminal Counsel John Connor said.
Filed by defense attorneys, the document alleges that Arnold winked at Sanders County resident Clint Gerber while saying, “I need an eyewitness.” Gerber then allegedly contacted Ash’s friend Sheila Raymond and suggested that she make a false statement to officers to help officers obtain a search warrant.
Raymond subsequently told Arnold that she saw Ash driving away with a woman and another individual in a truck that looked like one belonging to Roxanne Shepard, now on trial for Ash’s murder. Raymond says she made the false statement because she thought that Ash might still be alive, and that a warrant would expedite the process of finding him.
The defense motion seeks to disqualify evidence found in executing that warrant. That evidence includes grow-lamps and bulbs used for the cultivation of marijuana, as well as a wall, lamp, rope and T-shirt with bloodstains.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Gene Arnold absolutely produced a false affidavit,” Gerber said in court documents.
Arnold has gone on the record denying that accusation.
“The implication here is very disturbing, because the allegation goes way beyond reckless disregard,” defense lawyers said in court documents.
Next week Sanders County residents will find out what investigators have uncovered.