NewsCrime and Courts


Leon Ford Trial: Two Turk Road residents decline to testify

Turk Road residents called to take the stand
Posted at 6:04 PM, Jun 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-16 11:18:59-04

HELENA — The defense continued to call witnesses in the trial of Leon Ford on Thursday, with two Turk Road residents being called to take the stand.

Ford is charged with deliberate homicide and tampering with evidence in connection with the 2011 killing of John “Mike” Crites. Ford owned a property adjacent to Crites’ home on Turk Road, in a rural area outside Birdseye, northwest of Helena. Prosecutors said the two men had argued for years over land access, including confrontations in 2002 and 2007.

The defense has said many other neighbors in the Turk Road area had long-running disputes with Crites, including several that ended in lawsuits. They said Ford had a legal easement to reach his property and didn’t have a reason to kill Crites, and they argued his behavior in the days after Crites disappeared didn’t give an indication of guilt.

On Thursday, the defense called John Mehan and Katy Wessel to testify. Mehan and Wessel were neighbors of Crites on Turk Road in 2011 when Crites went missing. Neither has been named a suspect in connection to the murder of Crites.

Both Mehan and Wessel invoked their Fifth Amendment rights to not self-incriminate through testimony. Wessel invoked her constitutional rights through her counsel.

Mehan has previously pleaded "no contest" to criminal mischief for messing with cameras on Turk Road. The cameras were set up on private property on Turk Road by a resident of the area, and the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office also used the devices to monitor the area.

Thursday's testimony also included some of the defense's forensic experts, specifically regarding the attempt to locate Crites’ phone after he went missing and the decomposition of Crites's remains.

The defense will continue to present its case on Friday. Closing arguments are expected to take place early next week.