On the night of April 5, 1975, Monte Dyckman, an 18-year-old assistant manager of a Safeway supermarket in Hardin, Montana, left work around 10:15 p.m. and headed to a bank to deposit the store’s receipts. Later that night, Big Horn County Undersheriff John Fergerson found Dyckman’s body in his car, which was parked on the side of an interstate overpass with its lights on, approximately 12 miles west of Hardin. Dyckman’s hands had been tied behind his back, and he was shot twice in the head with a .45-caliber weapon. The deposit money was gone.
On May 8, 1975, police arrested and charged Travis Holliday, Paul Bad Horse, Jr., and Edwin Bushman in Dyckman’s kidnapping, robbery, and murder. Later that month, prosecutors also charged 30-year-old Gary Radi, who had two prior robbery convictions, and 34-year-old Bernard J. Fitzpatrick in Dyckman’s killing, but authorities were initially unable to locate Radi or Fitzpatrick. Several weeks later, police in Spokane, Washington, arrested Fitzpatrick, who had been released from Montana State Prison eight days before Dyckman’s killing. Radi was taken into custody in Wyoming on June 27, 1975. Prosecutors planned to jointly try Holliday, Bad Horse, Bushman, Fitzpatrick, and Radi for the deliberate homicide and aggravated kidnapping and robbery of Dyckman.
On motions from the defense attorneys representing the five defendants, District Judge Nat Allen moved the trial from the District Court in the 22nd Judicial District of Montana to the District Court in the 13th Judicial District of Montana, based primarily on the lack of security at the Big Horn County jail. Judge Allen denied motions from defense attorneys for separate trials. Before the trial began, newspapers reported that the state had offered Bushman immunity in exchange for testifying against the other defendants.
The jury trial for all five defendants began September 29, 1975 before Judge Allen. Big Horn County Attorney James Seykora and special prosecutor James Sinclair prosecuted the case. In his opening statement, Radi’s defense attorney, Stephen Roberts Jr., claimed that Bushman had committed the crimes with Raleigh Kraft Jr. as his accomplice and that none of the other four defendants were involved.
FBI Special Agent Roger Ashberry testified that a .45-caliber bullet found in Radi’s car had been fired from the same pistol as the bullets that killed Dyckman. The defense questioned why Radi would not have cleaned such a shell casing out of his car in the eight weeks between the shooting and his arrest. In response to the defense’s argument that Radi would be unlikely to leave evidence in his car, Sinclair said he doubted the “good fairy” had placed the shell casing in the car.
Two teenagers, Iva Lee Finch and Cindy Morgan, both of whom worked as prostitutes, testified that they had been with the defendants on the night of the crime. They testified that they, the five defendants, and two other women had traveled to Hardin in two cars on the night of Dyckman’s murder. The adults dropped the teens off at a bar around 8:30 or 9 p.m. and picked them up hours later. The girls testified that when they were picked up, Radi’s windshield had a hole of about an inch in diameter, and Radi told them someone had shot through the windshield. One of the teens also testified that they had both been under the influence of alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs the night of the crime.
The witness lists for both sides included 19-year-old Raleigh Kraft Jr., who had previously worked at the Hardin Safeway and was referenced in Roberts’s opening statement. On October 11, several days before the prosecution planned to call Kraft to testify, Seykora asked Big Horn County Sheriff Robert Brown to put Kraft in the psychiatric ward at Deaconess Hospital on “police hold.” Hospital representatives said that there was no medical reason for Kraft to be held. Kraft escaped out a window the day he was admitted. Four days later, police located Kraft, and he appeared in court to testify for the prosecution.
Kraft testified that he had worked at the Hardin Safeway for about two months in 1974 and twice made deposits of the store receipts. Kraft testified that about a year before the crime, he told Bad Horse that he had considered stealing the Safeway deposit money when it was in his possession. Kraft testified that Bushman was present for this conversation but did not participate. On cross-examination, Kraft testified that he had worked as a local police informant in drug cases. He denied having anything to do with the robbery and murder of Dyckman.
Bushman, a former tribal police officer, testified that he and the four other defendants had planned to steal the Safeway deposits. He testified that he, Bad Horse, and Holliday waited outside the Safeway in one car while Radi and Fitzpatrick waited in another. When Dyckman and Everett Stoltz, the store manager, left the store, each carrying bags potentially containing the deposits, Radi’s car followed Dyckman and Bushman’s car followed Stoltz, who drove home. Bushman said he and Bad Horse and Holliday later drove to Radi’s house where they met Radi and Fitzpatrick. Bushman testified that his girlfriend, Carol Braach, also joined the group.
Bushman testified that Radi told him that Fitzpatrick had shot Dyckman, though Judge Allen ordered the jury to disregard this as hearsay. Bushman testified that Bad Horse was very upset upon hearing someone had been shot during the robbery. Bushman testified that he then said to Bad Horse, “Let’s get the hell out of here!” and he, Bad Horse, and Braach left Radi’s house.
During cross-examination, Bushman admitted he made false statements to investigators in the two days after the murder in hopes of securing immunity but contended that those statements were not under oath. Bushman also stated that the night of the crime was the first time he had met Radi but could not offer an explanation as to why Radi would trust someone he just met with information on the murder. Following Bushman’s testimony, prosecutors dismissed the charges against him. Braach testified, and her statements were consistent with Bushman’s.
After seven days of testimony, the prosecution rested its case. The defense attorneys had provided the names of 42 witnesses they planned to call to refute the state’s case. However, after the prosecution rested its case, the attorneys for Bad Horse, Holliday, and Fitzpatrick stated that the defense also rested, without presenting any evidence. Roberts, Radi’s defense attorney, appeared surprised. He then met in chambers with Judge Allen to present motions outside the hearing of the jury. When Roberts returned, he announced that Radi, too, rested his defense without presenting evidence.
On October 22, 1975, the jury convicted Radi and Fitzpatrick of deliberate homicide and aggravated kidnapping and robbery. Bad Horse and Holliday were convicted of robbery. At the time, Montana law required a mandatory death sentence for aggravated kidnapping convictions, and the week after Radi’s and Fitzpatrick’s convictions, Judge Allen sentenced them to death by hanging between midnight and dawn on December 5, 1975.
The four men appealed, and the executions were stayed. On July 29, 1977, the Montana Supreme Court overturned their convictions. The court ruled that the judge had erroneously instructed the jury and that the men should have had separate trials.
Radi’s case went to trial a second time in January 1978. Seykora, aided by Assistant Attorney General Marc Racicot, prosecuted the case in the District Court in the 13th Judicial District of Montana before District Judge Charles Luedke. Rather than the usual 12-person jury, Radi opted for a six-person jury – an option permitted under Montana law though Radi was reportedly the first defendant in the state to ever exercise this option. Defense attorney Roberts said he and Radi believed the jurors would feel a greater sense of personal responsibility in this death penalty case if there were only six of them.
The prosecution’s case against Radi began similarly to the first trial, but Bushman failed to appear when he was called to testify as the primary witness. The trial was recessed while police sought to track him down. When he was not immediately found, Judge Luedke permitted Bushman’s testimony from the first trial to be read.
Kraft again testified for the prosecution. The prosecution wanted to present Finch, but she, too, failed to appear. Several witnesses testified that they had seen Dyckman in or standing near his car the night of the killing as well as two other men in Dyckman’s car. Two of these witnesses, one a friend of Dyckman’s, said they saw a dark car following Dyckman’s car, and that they thought it had the numbers “22” on its license plate. Roberts pointed out that “22” was the prefix for cars registered in Big Horn County, while Radi’s car was registered in Billings, where the prefix was “3.”
Robert Balko, who worked for the company that financed Radi’s car, testified that Radi came into his office four days after the crime to get his windshield replaced. Balko testified that Radi told him someone shot the windshield. Roberts then impeached Balko with a previous statement he had made to police, where he said that Radi told him someone had thrown a rock through the windshield. Roberts also produced a repair bill for Radi’s car from March, a month before the murder.
For the first time, the defense called alibi witnesses who said Radi was elsewhere on the night of the crime. Radi’s girlfriend, Barb Hanson, testified that on the night of the murder, Radi was with her in Billings, Montana, over 45 miles from Hardin. Hanson testified that she had been on a one-week vacation from a Nevada brothel and Radi had taken her and her friend, Shelly Beaumont, out to dinner in Billings at a restaurant called Wong Village at about 9:00 or 9:30 p.m. Hanson testified that they were at dinner for an hour or an hour and a half. Hanson said that early on the morning of April 6, after the bars closed, she dropped Radi off at his house and then drove Beaumont home. She said that when she returned to Radi’s house, Holliday and two prostitutes were also there. Hanson testified that she and Radi soon left the state to avoid the lengthy prison sentence Radi was facing for a recent burglary conviction in Big Timber, Montana.
When Radi was arrested in Wyoming, he was with Hanson. Under questioning by Racicot, Hanson denied that she was lying because of her relationship with Radi. She testified that she was on probation and if she lied, her daughter could be taken away from her. “I don’t love Gary enough to lose her,” she testified. Shelly Beaumont testified and confirmed that she was dining with Radi and Hanson at Wong Village at the time of the crime.
Radi testified and denied involvement in the crime. Several other witnesses also testified that they saw Radi in Billings, Montana, at and around the time of the crime. On February 9, 1978, the jury acquitted Radi. Radi remained in prison due to the sentence he had received for the unrelated burglary conviction.
At Fitzpatrick’s retrial, he was convicted and sentenced to death. This conviction was later overturned, and he was convicted at his third trial and sentenced to 300 years in prison. He later had 200 additional years added to his sentence for breaking out of prison. Bad Horse and Holliday were convicted on robbery charges at retrial and each was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.