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2 Wyoming teens held in killing of woman, parents

  • Article by: MATTHEW BROWN
  • Associated Press
  • March 4, 2013 - 5:27 PM

BILLINGS, Mont. - Two teens were due in court Tuesday to face charges they killed three members of a Wyoming family in a small town near the Montana border where residents said they've been left shaken by the rare violence.

Park County Sheriff Scott Steward said Stephen Hammer, 19, and Tanner Vanpelt, 18, both from Cody, were arrested after neighbors described two men entering the house where the victim's bodies were found.

The neighbors saw two vehicles speeding away, including a black Audi belonging to 40-year-old Ildiko Freitas, who owned the house with her husband.

Freitas and her parents, Janos Volgyesi, 69, and Hildegard Volgyesi, 70, were found dead inside the house Saturday. At least two had been shot.

The sheriff said in a statement that it was "nothing short of cold-blooded murder." He gave no indication of motive, and his office declined to release details, citing the ongoing investigation.

Freitas' brother, Thomas Volgyesi, said Monday that he knew of no connection between the suspects and his family.

Residents could not recall a murder in recent decades in Clark, a rural community dominated by ranching and farming.

The town has only a few businesses and no post office. Its roughly 300 residents are scattered across a broad river valley framed by the Beartooth Mountains that rise up to the west. The closest large towns, Powell and Cody, are more than 30 miles away.

Connie Morris, manager of the Edelweiss — a combination convenience store, restaurant and bar that is Clark's most prominent business — said the last violent death she could recall there was in the 1970s, when a woman was found dead in a creek.

Foul play was initially suspected in that case but later ruled out, residents said.

"There wasn't enough people here to have many problems," Morris said. "I'm afraid it's permeated into God's country now. I hate to see it. It was the one place I always knew of that didn't have problems."

A neighbor, Robert Bushman, speculated that the killers were interested in stealing Freitas' Audi. He said another neighbor who had watched them approach the residence estimated that they were inside for 20 minutes at most.

Thomas Volgyesi said his parents retired to Wyoming four years ago for its more relaxed lifestyle, after leaving their longtime home in southern California.

They lived in a separate house on the same property as their daughter and her husband, John, who works in the oil industry and was away for work at the time of the killings, Volgyesi said.

"They were the only family I have and I'm left with nothing now," Volgyesi said. "To have them taken away from me like this, I'm not registering it yet."

Ildiko Freitas grew up in Bakersfield, Calif., and attended the University of Wyoming before moving to Clark with her husband six or seven years ago. Last year, the couple bought another house in Loveland, Colo., that they had been renovating and were planning to move into sometime soon, said neighbor David Mathiesen.

Vanpelt's father said Monday that his son had not been in serious trouble before his arrest. Robb Vanpelt said his son was not living with him and the accusation he was involved in a triple homicide was "pretty much totally out of the blue."

Tanner Vanpelt graduated in December 2011 from Cody High School, where principal Brandon Jensen recalled that the teenager wasn't involved in athletics or after-school clubs, but also never had serious discipline issues.

Hammer attended the school only a year before transferring during his freshman year, Jensen said.

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Ben Neary in Cheyenne and Colleen Slevin in Denver, and news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York.

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