Wyoming authorities charge suspect in 2006 murder of missing Tabernash snowboarder
April 15, 2010
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A Rock Springs man has been charged with murder in the 2006 death of a Colorado man who disappeared while hitchhiking across Wyoming.
Eric John Conn, 41, was arrested March 18 in St. Louis. He’s charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in the death of Ben Bradley, 29, of Tabernash.
Conn’s arrest is the first public break in the investigation. The case has drawn national attention, including coverage on the television program “America’s Most Wanted.”
Bradley, a devoted snowboarder, last contacted friends the evening of June 2, 2006, from Rock Springs as he was traveling to visit friends in Jackson. He had worked at the Winter Park Ski Area in Colorado as a snowmaker and had planned to work the winter of 2006-2007 in Jackson, his family said.
According to court records, Conn told federal agents that he and two other “male subjects” attacked Bradley at a Rock Springs residence after they spent hours there together “getting high.” The records don’t report whether Conn told the agents any reason for the attack.
Bradley’s body was found in October 2006 north of Rock Springs. He died from stab wounds to the chest and also had suffered a skull fracture, according to court records.
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Brett Johnson, Sweetwater County attorney, said Wednesday he couldn’t comment on whether his office plans to charge the other two unnamed “co-suspects,” or whether any other charges or warrants have been filed in the case.
Circuit Court Judge Dan Forgey on Tuesday set bail for Conn at $2 million. A court clerk said Conn wasn’t represented by a lawyer but has applied for a public defender.
Johnson said Conn faces a preliminary hearing before Forgey on Tuesday in Rock Springs.
Detective John Grossnickle of the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office filed an affidavit in court last month to support his request for the arrest warrant for Conn. The affidavit states the following:
• Conn told agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on March 3 that in June 2006 he was sharing a Rock Springs residence with two other males and other people. The two males are identified only as co-suspect No. 1 and co-suspect No. 2.
• Conn told the agents that he, the two males, Bradley and a female were “getting high” together at the residence in the early morning hours the day Bradley died. After the female left, Conn said, co-suspect No. 2 hit Bradley with an ax handle and then co-suspect No. 1 stabbed Bradley.
• Conn told the agents that he kicked Bradley with his steel-toed boots and punched him.
Much of the investigation into Bradley’s death has focused on finding his custom-made black “Never Summer” snowboard. It was painted with the image of an eagle with lightning bolts in its talons.
Grossnickle’s affidavit states that a sister of co-suspect No. 1 told investigators that she had seen a black snowboard at the residence that her brother shared with Conn.
The affidavit also states that another unnamed witness told investigators he saw a black snowboard there. The witness told investigators that co-suspect No. 1 told him, “I killed that guy and if you say anything about it, I will kill your wife.”
Bradley’s parents, Ken and Mary Bradley, run a cabinetmaking shop in Cayucos, Calif.
In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Ken Bradley said he and his wife are happy to learn of an arrest in the death of their son and they plan to follow the prosecution in Sweetwater County.
“It would be nice if they plea, and not have to have a court trial,” Bradley said. “It’s very difficult for the wife and myself. But no matter what, we’re going to do whatever they ask us, and we know the importance of us being there for a trial.”
“I’m pleased,” said Grand County Sheriff’s Investigator Leo Piechocki, who was involved in the case for the first few months until it became apparent the crime was committed in Wyoming.