Walter "Marty" Larson
Thirty four year old Susan Casey was last seen outside her Glendive Montana apartment around five in the morning on April 12, 2008. Her body would eventually be found in the Yellow Stone River. An autopsy would determine that she had been strangled and was no longer alive when her body was put in the river. When it came to significant others who could have been involved in the case this one had plenty. First there was Susan's first ex-husband, Marty Larson, the father of her two oldest children. Then there was Susan's estranged husband, Ted Casey, and the father of her two youngest children. Lastly there was Brad Holzer, her new boyfriend, who not only was married but who would admit to being the last person to see her alive when he dropped her off at her apartment that morning. Of course Brad's wife would also have to be looked at as a suspect.
Susan and Marty Larson had married in 1993 and divorced in early 1998. She would marry Ted Casey in late 1998. It appears that early on Larson was obviously none too happy with things. Sometime in 1998 Larson was convicted for a misdemeanor charge of stalking Susan and her family. It also appears that after this Larson had little or nothing to do with Susan, or the two children they shared together for quite some time. In late 2007 Susan and Ted had decided to get a divorce and Susan moved out of the home with her children. It is unclear as to whether Marty had already re-appeared in their lives or if this happened as Ted and Susan's marriage began to fail. Just exactly what their relationship was at the time of Susan's death has been a bit of a debate.
It seems that Susan and Marty did apparently begin seeing each other after Susan moved out of her home. Not everyone seemed privy to this decision by Susan but those who were contend that while it was true that she had thought of reconciliation with Larson, she soon realized this was not a good idea and broke off the relationship. Marty Larson saw things a different way, or at least this was his contention. He would claim that the two were planning to remarry at some point and that the relationship was going well. Investigators would learn that between April 10th and 12th Larson had called Susan a total of forty-four times and that the day before she disappeared she had asked her daughter how to block numbers on her cell phone because he kept calling.
Investigators quickly determined that on the morning of April 12th Brad Holzer had dropped Susan off at her apartment a bit after five in the morning. He would tell investigators that they had sat in his vehicle for some time outside and that when she got out to go inside he had not waited to see if she had made it. Of course this made investigators suspicious. Holzer would also tell investigators that a week prior to her death his wife (it was unclear if he and his wife were still together at this point) had received a phone call from a man who told her to tell her husband to “stop messing around with married women.” Holzer had also received an email the day before Susan was murdered by someone named “Denise Johnson.” This person obviously knew of his relationship with Susan and it appeared that the email was an attempt to break the two up.
Surveillance video from a bank that was near Susan's apartment seemed to show Holzer's vehicle and confirm his story, at least the way he was telling it. Of course investigators could not be sure but it appeared that Holzer was cooperating fully with them and telling the truth.
Talking with Susan's family they learned that Marty Larson called Susan's father around 2 am on the morning of her murder claiming he was worried that he could not reach her. Larson would tell investigators his story of their relationship and would say that although he lived in Billings Montana, some three hours away, he became worried when she had not called him as she had promised and so at 1 am he got into his vehicle and headed to her home. Along the way he would send numerous texts and leave voice mails on Susan's phone. Marty would claim that he got to Susan's place about 4:30 that morning and parked around the corner to her building. He stated he knocked lightly on the door because he did not want to wake the children and then went back to his truck and tried calling her again before heading back home. Of course this story, even on the surface did not make sense. Why would anyone drive three hours to someone's home and then not knock on the door loud enough for anyone, and everyone to hear, then go back to their vehicle, try to call one more time and simply drive three hours back home?
Investigators would first arrest Marty Larson two days after the murder of Susan Casey but not for her murder. They would arrest him for violating a restraining order that Susan had filed in 1998. This was really all they had at the time to use. The restraining order was obviously a permanent one that had been in place for some nine years and he had openly admitted going to her home the night she disappeared. A judge however would later dismiss the charge saying that Larson had never been properly notified of the restraining order and he was released.
Over the next nearly four years investigators would keep going back to the case. And each time they kept coming back to Marty Larson. They kept looking at him and investigating more and more. Finally in February of 2012 they would arrested him again at his home in Phoenix Arizona and charge him in the murder of Susan. He would go on trial in March of 2013. Prosecutors would show that not only had the email that Brad Holzer received from “Denise Johnson” been sent from Larson's computer, where the account had been set up, but that surveillance video discounted the story he had told investigators. Remember, his story was he went to her home, parked around the corner, gently knocked on the door, then returned to his truck and not long later headed back home. Well, in order for that to have happened the way that he claimed Larson would have had to walk past the area in which the camera covered both coming and going to Susan's door. While the camera did not actually show her door, it did cover the area Larson would have to walk past. Apparently it seems he did show up around 4:30 that morning, just as he had stated, and it showed him (or who prosecutors claim was him) walking towards Susan's building. However, no one else walked past that camera again until 5:38, almost twenty minutes after Brad Holzer, had left. Prosecutors would claim, since we all know surveillance video, especially that from so far away, are not completely clear, that this person too was Larson. Regardless whether the person in the video was, or was not Larson, it seems the defense could hardly argue that Larson's story to investigators was true. Investigators then believe that after returning to his vehicle Larson had pulled behind her building into an alley, now outside the camera's view, and dragged Susan's body to his vehicle. Drag marks were found in the area to collaborate this. Later Larson's vehicle, or at least what prosecutors would claim was his vehicle would once again be in the camera's view as it drove away.
The defense would call the prosecution theory a “fictional version” of what happened between Marty Larson and Susan Casey and of course argued there was no direct evidence. But in fairness, there rarely is “direct” evidence in a murder. Larson's vehicle had been searched but by the time investigators had even looked at it the first time it had been cleaned. This had led to a charge of tampering with evidence. The defense would also argue that Ted Casey, Susan's estranged husband, had more of a reason or motive to kill Susan than Larson. Although I heard little evidence of such I am sure they also argued about Holzer and his wife also being suspects and as is often the case arguing that investigators had “tunnel vision” when it came to Larson. You cannot really fault them for trying I suppose considering all a defense has to do is create reasonable doubt and hope that one juror believes their theory.
In the end however, after a six day trial and five hours of deliberation the jury found Marty Larson guilty of deliberate homicide and tampering with evidence on April 1, 2013. On July 31, 2013 Larson was sentenced to 100-110 years and ordered to serve at least thirty before he is eligible for parole. He was also ordered to pay $15,000 to Susan's family for funeral expenses as well as more than two thousand more for court fees. He has maintained his innocence but in 2015 the courts affirmed his conviction and sentence.