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Cold Case: Missoula detectives take another look at decades-old homicide

By Emily Adamson, KECI Reporter, eadamson@keci.com
Published On: Nov 12 2012 08:23:51 PM MST
Updated On: Nov 14 2012 09:24:07 AM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Detectives at the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office are hopeful new technology can lead them closer to solving a 21-year-old double homicide case.

NBC Montana has an exclusive look back at a horrific crime, and the new clues that could help solve it.

The landscape in the area has changed. “After years it kind of grows up, this was very tall grass at the time,” said Missoula County Deputy Bob Parcell.

But it's a scene Parcell will never forget.

“It was right here,” he said.

It’s a spot in the woods near a campground in the Seeley Lake area, where 21 years ago Parcell and other members of the Missoula County Sheriff's Department started to investigate a horrible crime.

“It was a homicide, two people were killed.”

Those two, Kenneth and Iva Larue Cheetham were from Sumner, WA, just south of Seattle. The couple liked to travel, but those plans turned deadly on a trip to Montana in July, 1991.

The Cheetham's stopped at Stoney's Kwik Stop at the Clearwater Junction, before heading up Highway 83 on their way to Glacier National Park. But they never made it.

The couple had plans to meet their family at the park, and stopped at a campground near Lake Inez on July 30, 1991. Little did they know the stop would be their last.

On August 5 the Cheetham's van was found on an old logging road, a few miles away from the campground. Then on September 11, 1991 a passerby found their bodies in the woods not far from where they'd camped.

“This is exactly where we found them,” said Parcell as he recounted the scene. “Him right where you're standing, her over there.”

Parcell and detectives know a 9 mm pistol was used to kill the couple, and a video camera was missing from their van. At the time they didn’t have much else to go off.

“It's a shame for the family and for the investigation,” said Parcell.

But it's a crime the Missoula County Sheriff's Department hasn't given up on.  And after all these years, Parcell and others in the department want just one thing.

“For the families and for the whole system it needs to finally be put to bed,” said Parcell.

Now detectives have reopened the case and are looking at over 50 pieces of evidence. With new technology, they’re confident they can get some fresh leads.

NBC Montana will have the second part of this story, and more about the evidence Tuesday on the news at 10, and right here on nbcmontana.com.