(Cheyenne, Wyo.) – Brothers Vernon and Alan Brown could get their first degree murder charges dismissed in U.S. District Court due to a jurisdictional issue.
In question is whether the land where Tad Paul Barnson’s body was found is within the Wind River Indian Reservation or Riverton City Limits.
In May, 61-year-old Alan Brown and 54-year-old Vernon Brown were charged in the 2006 kidnapping and murder of Barnson. Barnson went missing that year, but his skeletal remains were found in early March 2013 on ground believed to be on the reservation.
On Sept. 20, Vernon Brown’s attorney, P. Craig Silva filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction. In his motion, Silva notes that the murder charge alleges the murder took place in “Indian Country.” However, GPS coordinates detailed in the motion point to Barnson being found on City of Riverton land.
“If, a murder occurred in this case, which is disputed, the evidence put forward by the Government through the testimony of Colleen Brown (a sister) is the GPS location provided in the above cited report,” Silva wrote. “That location, where the K-9 dogs alerted, is no located in ‘Indian country.’”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kerry Jacobson on Oct. 2 filed a response, conceding that the first degree murder charge should be dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction.
“During the course of the investigation and in preparation for trial, it was discovered that the location where the bulk of the assault and murder of Barnson occurred was not within the confines of the Wind River Indian Reservation and is not in Indian Country for purposes of federal criminal jurisdiction.”
A date for a federal judge to consider the dismissal has not been set. Jacobson’s concession was filed with relation to both brothers.
Should the murder charges be dismissed in federal court, the cases could be picked up by the Fremont County Attorney’s Office. “That office has, accordingly, indicated a willingness to move forward with charges against the Defendants in state court,” Jacobson wrote.
Fremont County and Prosecuting Attorney Michael Bennett was not readily available for comment.
The brothers have also been charged with Kidnapping and Aiding and Abetting. That charge remains in the U.S. District Court’s jurisdiction. Both cases are currently slated for trial on Nov. 12.
Read more about the case here.