Feb 17, 2015

One year later, sheriff is ‘confident’ Badger Basin homicide will be solved

If you’d have asked Park County Sheriff Scott Steward a year ago whether authorities would solve the murder of the man whose mutilated body was found in Badger Basin — and if Steward was completely candid — he might have told you, “There’s just no way.”

But now, some 13 months into the investigation, “I’m getting a lot more confident that we will solve it,” Steward said in a recent interview.

Sheriff Scott Steward
The body was discovered Jan. 9, 2014, along a remote dirt road informally known as Little Sand Coulee Road, about a mile and a half west of Wyo. Highway 294. The body was missing a head and left arm, among other damage.

Since that time, authorities working the case — chiefly the sheriff’s office and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation — have determined the man was shot to death, identified him as 30-year-old Juan Antonio Guerra-Torres and come up with a couple “persons of interest” in connection with the murder.

Further, authorities now feel comfortable in saying that — despite rampant public speculation to the contrary — Guerra-Torres’ murder doesn’t appear to have been at the hands of a foreign drug cartel.

“I think we can safely safely say that it’s not going to (turn out to) be cartel-type action, like you hear of on the borders,” Steward said. “It’s more a of personal deal ... a personal argument.”

Guerra-Torres was a Mexican national, believed to have been illegally in the United States. He had lived in both the Clark community and Tulare County, Calif., south of Fresno.

“I think we can safely safely say that it’s not going to (turn out to) be cartel-type action, like you hear of on the borders,” said Sheriff Scott Steward.

People who knew Guerra-Torres have said he lived with a significant other, had five children and worked manual labor jobs in the Clark area.

The sheriff’s investigator works on the murder case when he has time or new information, and sheriff’s personnel meet with their counterparts at DCI whenever they’ve got a lead or a sustained lull in the investigation, Steward said.

Juan Guerra-Torres
“Obviously, we’re not like a major metro P.D. or something that has a cold case unit that that’s all they do,” the sheriff said. “Unfortunately, we’ve got one investigator, and we’ve got DCI helping, and it’s just a matter (of), you can’t work it full-time.”

He said it’s been a frustrating case.

“We feel that we’re close, but we just can’t seem to nail the coffin,” Steward said, adding later that, “Every time you think you’re making progress, it’s like ... you take that two steps forward thinking, ‘Here we go,’ and then you fall five steps back; something just doesn’t pan out or (it’s) bad information.”

That said, Steward also believes there will come a point where the investigation begins picking up momentum and “once that snowball goes, you’ve got to kick it downhill fast and get moving, because you lose so much and people obviously can talk and get stories straight,” he said.

The sheriff said tips have been scarce in recent months. However, “when somebody else (in the country) has a headless homicide, boy, all of a sudden we get these calls, ‘Hey, could it be connected?’” Steward said.

He called a connection to other such killings “highly unlikely.”

Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact the Park County Sheriff’s Office at 307-527-8700 or Wyoming DCI at 307-777-7545.


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