Water Priorities: Money To Promote Play, Not Investigations

by Travis Mateer

Before we get to the idea of serial killers using bodies of water for their victims, let’s take a look at a local stretch of water and the plans that are being called AMBITIOUS! From the link (emphasis mine):

The city and a team of state and local partners will turn their focus to a stretch of the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula in a bid to protect infrastructure from channel migration, restore habitat and possibly add a new recreational feature to the waterway.

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency has agreed to contribute $300,000 in tax increment to hire a consultant capable of pulling the project together, though city officials admit it may be a challenge given the number of goals.

That nice chunk of change MRA is throwing at ANOTHER consultant to pull off this massive scheme of a dozen or so little projects along this stretch of river is getting attention because the Urban Renewal District this public-money-siphoning scheme depends on will be sunsetting soon. So there’s urgency to do things NOW, like enable a POSSIBLE recreational feature. Won’t that be fun for the tourists?

Here’s more about the AMBITION to spend public money to get some specialized consultation on ways to spend MORE money (emphasis mine):

With a number of goals in mind, the city has spent the past two years building a coalition of partners that include Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Montana Trout Unlimited and various city departments.

With the partnership now in place, Valliant said the city is ready to hire a consultant to develop a comprehensive plan, including the engineering and design work.

“Having that nonprofit partnership is really critical to help us gain capacity and bring in that funding,” said Valliant. “I do believe this will be the biggest river project our city has tried to take on since building the levy system downtown to expand downtown. It’s one that could have national significance.”

Wow, doesn’t this sound exciting? Also, ambitious, but we’ve clearly established that. I’m excited to see how a local government that struggles with updating forms, using meeting rules, and navigating technology, is going to “take on” such an ambitious set of goals. Believe me, with all the committee meetings and advisory board meetings I’ve been attending recently, it seems more than laughable.

Laughter is usually not closely associated with my public comments at these meetings (unless I’m referencing Dick Florida), more like heavy silence or a sense of impending dread, like what I imagine would happen if I mentioned dead people showing up in, or around, water.

This death happened in the same area being discussed for improvements in May of 2021, improvements that will protect INVESTMENTS, not people. I wonder, how many investigators would $300,000 pay for?

East of Missoula, in Bozeman, the need to address a backlog of cases has just been discovered by the County Attorney’s Office. From the link:

The Gallatin County Attorney’s Office is forming a task force to deal with more than 100 unprosecuted sex crime and domestic assault cases going back more than a decade after boxes of the files were discovered in the office.

Gallatin County Attorney Audrey Cromwell announced in a news release Tuesday that her office found 113 unreviewed cases that included violent rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, incest and sexual abuse against children cases.

It’s great a task force is being convened, but who is going to pay for it? Is there any help coming from the legislators arguing over a BILLION+ surplus?

While Missoula water priorities focus on protecting investments and recreation, the team of Kevin Gannon and D. Lee Gilbertson put their time and energy into understanding strange deaths that end up in water. Their book, titled Case Studies in Drowning Forensics, is a good place to start for anyone interested in this pattern of deaths associated with a phenomenon called the Smiley Face Killings.

When I couldn’t sleep last night, I finally opened this book and the conversation that begins the first chapter immediately brought to mind the case of Rebekah Barsotti. From the book:

Gannon: Doc, now that you’re read the autopsy report and looked at the photos, what do you think?

Gilbertson: I’ve got problems with it right from the get-go.

Gannon: Let me guess, the body condition.

Gilbertson: Yup, you too I take it. He’s in rigor, no putrefaction, no maceration…

Gannon: That’s right professor, there’s no way this kid could be in the water that long and look this good.

Gilbertson: I know. Once again, the length of time he was missing is not the same as the length of time he was actually dead in the water.

Gannon: Exactly! He’s probably only been dead for 48 hours and in the water for no more than 24 to 36 at the most – so, where was he the rest of the time?

This conversation makes me recall a very strange comment from Judge Marks in an ongoing civil case regarding Rebekah Barsotti’s estate.

Before Rebekah’s body was found on May 17th, 2022, Judge Marks claimed he unfortunately had previous experience with dead bodies in water, speculating that cremation would probably be the only option for the remains. Huh?

Rebekah Barsotti’s death, like so many of these young men turning up dead in bodies of water around the country, involves too many red flags and unexplained factors to simply accept “river accident” as a plausible explanation for what happened.

Here’s something for the promoters of recreation and protectors of investments in Western Montana to consider: murderous people and tourist fun don’t mix. So, if there’s evidence pointing to the existence of murderous people getting away with murder, how about we put as much energy into investigating WTF is going on with these suspicious deaths as we do with fun-time investments in our rivers. Just a thought.

If you appreciate my thoughts, please consider making a financial donation at my about page. Also, there’s a new kind of TIF in development, and tomorrow I hope to have more to share about that.

So stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

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Who Dares Challenge Their Hero Narrative?

by Travis Mateer

I pulled off Interstate 90 in Superior, Montana, so my partner could have a quick bathroom break on the way to the “community debrief” in St. Regis after Saturday’s shootout at the Travel Center, leaving one suspect dead and three others temporarily detained. More on that further down.

On the way back to the highway I saw Mineral County Sheriff, Ryan Funke, leaving work around 5:15pm. I’m mentioning this because what happened next is either a trauma response to stress, or an indication of what this Sheriff thinks about following the law, because once Funke hit the highway he opened it up and hit speeds over 90 mph.

Maybe he was just excited to see his pals, the Montana Highway Patrol guy and Sanders County Sheriff who, like Ryan, is new to the Sheriff position as of January. Here they are in the school gym getting ready for the hero treatment.

The debrief was NOT a chance for press to ask questions, that was made very clear by the woman who led the event, Amy Lommen. Instead, the intent was for community members to connect with resources, like counseling, since SO MANY in the community were witnesses to Saturday’s shootout. Witnesses were also directed to NOT SHARE specific details, since the investigation is obviously ongoing and being led by DCI (Division of Criminal Investigation).

One of the witnesses DCI will want to talk to (if they haven’t already) is the man suing Mineral County with his hammer of Mandamus, Lance Jasper. Lance was ALSO the first witness to address the community on Monday, tearfully expressing his gratitude for the cops who killed the bad man. Will this create some kind of conflict with that legal process, since the Mandamus hammer is also pounding away at the Sheriff’s Office?

In Mineral County, here’s the reality created largely by the man pictured above: The Sheriff’s Office is currently AT WAR with the County Attorney’s Office, and the result is NOT GOOD for the community. What do I mean? For starters, why were the County Commissioners NOT invited to this community event? Here is the statement from Commissioners:

If I lived in Mineral County I would be VERY interested to know WHY the Commissioners weren’t informed of this event. I would also wonder WTF the Sheriff thinks he’s doing by making comments like this on social media:

Another concern I’m hearing about involves the female suspect taken into custody on Saturday. I have a source who informed me that this woman has ALREADY been released from jail. If this happened WITHOUT consulting the County Attorney’s Office, that would be pretty fucked up. I’m also hearing that Lance Jasper was getting privileged access to the crime scene. Maybe because his family essentially runs this County?

The HERO narrative that’s quickly emerged around this shootout involves one of Lance’s family members, Ken Jasper, who got a door locked JUST IN TIME. This act probably saved the lives of multiple people who were taking shelter inside.

This post is NOT denying the heroism involved in going toward danger for the greater good of the community. That’s the job Sheriffs and their deputies are PAID to do. Another job requirement of being a Sheriff in Montana, at least from my limited perspective, is the ability to find scapegoats for any deficiencies that may emerge during a critical incident response.

Sheriff Ryan Funke exhibited this skillset superbly on Monday when he referenced a “disconnect” between Idaho law enforcement and Montana law enforcement that’s being investigated. I’m not sure it’s smart to start throwing Idaho law enforcement under the proverbial bus at this point, but I do appreciate the reference from Funke (after the tears subsided) because now it’s something I can investigate as well!

I was excited to talk to some members of law enforcement OUTSIDE Montana because I find cops surprisingly relatable, having worked so closely with plenty of beat cops during my days working at the homeless shelter. I even chatted recently with the former crime-prevention officer I served with on the Mayor’s Downtown Advisory Commission, and was happy to hear he’s going to be retiring soon.

It’s weird to think of that period as the good ‘ol days. Here’s a screenshot that takes me back to that time and the people I once respected. Only a few have stood the test of time.

I’m showing readers this proof of my time influencing the influencers for a specific reason, and that reason is to provide an answer to the question posed in the title of this post–who dares challenge their hero narrative. The answer? Me, of course.

Before driving back to Missoula County at 5 mph below the speed limit, I left my contact information at a specific place in Superior regarding a rabid dog, but I won’t say where, because the citizens in that County aren’t safe from reprisal.

The good news is that rabies case definitely appears to be fake. The bad news is the case of powerful institutions enabling dangerous individuals keeps expanding.

While writing this post I DID have two conversations with members of Idaho law enforcement, and I think my concerns about what I heard at the community debrief in St. Regis were well received. It certainly helps that I have a proven track-record of collaborating across jurisdictions here in Missoula when it comes to chronic homelessness and the challenges that particular subset of the “houseless” population provides.

This Missoulian story about the debrief includes Sheriff Funke’s comments about that supposed “disconnect” I gave two Idaho jurisdictions more perspective on. From the link (emphasis mine):

Witnesses described a terrifying, bloody, chaotic scene at the crowded St. Regis Travel Center this past Saturday as an armed robbery suspect stormed through a gift shop waving a gun.

Meanwhile, the Mineral County Sheriff has hinted that there was a “disconnect” between law enforcement agencies in Idaho and Montana that “can be improved.”

Whatever this supposed disconnect was, I’ll note that NOW is a great time for an honest assessment, since that COULD lead to an opportunity to better resource border-counties like Mineral County with some financial help from our state’s BILLION+ surplus.

Or not. The choice belongs to the badges and suits, who are overseen by the gavels and Commissioners, who themselves have an Attorney General and Governor to look to for leadership in a crisis touching multiple parts of the state, as evidenced by this acknowledgment from the AG over the weekend:

I hear you, AG Knudsen, but then again I hear lots of words from lots of people over the course of a day in Big Sky Country. What I would like EVEN MORE is to SEE some fucking action in the dark places where the known problems lurk.

If you appreciate the unique position I am in to challenge this quickly-established hero narrative before more details are known to the public, you can help my efforts by donating to my about page.

Thanks for reading!

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COGNIZANT Post Pt 2: Walking From Condo Land To Homeless Camps

by Travis Mateer

Today’s FIRST post about being “Cognizant” indicated a second post would be necessary to encompass the scope of yesterday’s walkabout, so HERE IT IS!

Also, I waited until AFTER giving public comment at the Public Art Committee to post this because I wanted to include my perspective on this committee, and here’s my perspective: BORING! I mean, 15 minutes nearly killed me, especially the part about the forms being used for the meeting minutes and how the forms still have former Mayor Engen’s name on them, who is dead. Don’t worry, some is on this, and it will be fixed, eventually.

My comment was about money and narrative control and how I opposed the money coming from Cognizant and Bloomberg Philanthropies. I tried leaving this meeting after my brief comment, but the woman running the meeting stopped me to let me know it’s the STAFF of Cognizant, not the company itself, providing the money, to which I asked the following question: who pays the staff?

This all might be entertaining if the societal collapse we are seeing wasn’t so dire. But hey, it’s springtime in Montana now, and the sun is nice, and who am I to complain?

Tomorrow’s post will answer that question, especially as it pertains to a hero narrative forming in Mineral County. So stay tuned, and enjoy the sunshine because I know I won’t be!

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On Being More COGNIZANT Of Their Narrative Control–Or, Wake The Fuck Up, Artists!

by Travis Mateer

On Tuesday at 4pm the Public Art Committee is meeting to discuss art stuff. If you understand the importance of keeping artists grant/donor dependent for narrative control purposes, this screenshot from Tuesday’s agenda might interest you like it interests me. Here it is with the first non-action item highlighted for emphasis:

While I haven’t been able to figure out what this “R.A.C.E.” funding proposal is, I definitely know what Cognizant is, and that’s a tech company that consumes other tech companies like a vicious amoeba. In 2018 this tech-parasite slithered into our Missoula community after the founder of ATG, Tom Stergios, sold out to it.

Here’s the MONEY rationalization for selling out to this nasty tech-entity from the man who employs my own father:

In an interview with the Missoula Current, Stergios said ATG will continue to operate at its existing locations, including Missoula and Kansas City. With Congizant’s ambitious plans for growth, he also expects the number of Missoula employees to expand in the coming years.

As it stands, Cognizant is adding 500 jobs in Mesa, Arizona, and 1,100 jobs in Texas. The firm currently employs 260,000 people.

“We’re anticipating we’ll use all those levers to grow Missoula to its fullest potential,” Stergios said. “I’m measuring jobs in the hundreds to potentially thousands. We’ll aim high. They’re looking at hiring 25,000 in North America over a five-year period, and I think we’ve got a tremendous amount of advantages.”

Yes, the man who is excited to bring cancerous growth to Missoula will ultimately benefit as some of that money flows to pacifying local artists with blood money. That’s right, I said BLOOD MONEY. From the link (emphasis mine):

The panic attacks started after Chloe watched a man die.

She spent the past three and a half weeks in training, trying to harden herself against the daily onslaught of disturbing posts: the hate speech, the violent attacks, the graphic pornography. In a few more days, she will become a full-time Facebook content moderator, or what the company she works for, a professional services vendor named Cognizant, opaquely calls a “process executive.”

For this portion of her education, Chloe will have to moderate a Facebook post in front of her fellow trainees. When it’s her turn, she walks to the front of the room, where a monitor displays a video that has been posted to the world’s largest social network. None of the trainees have seen it before, Chloe included. She presses play.

The video depicts a man being murdered. Someone is stabbing him, dozens of times, while he screams and begs for his life. Chloe’s job is to tell the room whether this post should be removed. She knows that section 13 of the Facebook community standards prohibits videos that depict the murder of one or more people. When Chloe explains this to the class, she hears her voice shaking.

This company is perfect for my father AND Missoula because both have eagerly fragmented their souls into collateralized debt instruments in order to get paid. Who cares if the paymaster is an exploitive predator? Just take your handout and be happy you aren’t searching the riverbanks for temporary housing, serfs!

Going back to the list being considered by the Public Art Committee, another name that pops out at me is BLOOMBERG. Let’s take a look at this “grant opportunity” from what I’m assuming is Bloomberg Philanthropies, shall we?

Hey, I have an idea? How about telling Bloomberg Philanthropies to FUCK OFF? Or is Missoula’s art community just a bunch of whores eagerly offering up submissive orifices to any suitor that comes along with deep pockets?

I decided to take a walk to Cognizant headquarters in Missoula for some pictorial context, and boy did I get some pictorial context! So much context, in fact, that a whole other post might be required. Or maybe a video?

Before all that, here are some of the images I find relevant to this post.

With the invigorating March air helping to propel my multi-modal feet, I extended my walk on Wyoming Street west, toward Russell. That’s when things got interesting.

But that will have to be for another post! If you appreciate context like this, please consider a making a donation at my about page.

Thanks for reading!

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Criminal Justice Turnover At The Top: What’s Going On?

by Travis Mateer

If what I heard over the weekend is true, the vicarious trauma that comes with prosecuting humans for breaking the law may finally have gotten to the woman leading the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, Kirsten Pabst. Or maybe something else has triggered the decision Pabst has allegedly made less than six months after securing her reelection.

I like this image of Pabst because it includes one of the men who has played a supporting role in her reign, and that’s former County prosecutor and current judge, Jason Marks. We’ll get to Marks and his lawyer wife in a moment. But first…

The man in uniform pictured above is Mike Colyer, the best damage-control placeholder around for the short-term job of interim police chief after Jaeson White announced his departure at the end of March. Why is Mike the best? Because he’s done it before, after the Engen-enabler, Mike Brady, left the top cop position. Also, he was one of four people mentioned by United States Attorney, Michael Cotter, after Missoula’s rape culture was supposedly all fixed up over a decade ago.

Here are some accolades from Cotter’s DOJ press release (emphasis mine):

Also, at the podium are four of Missoula’s community leaders who I have gotten to know very well over the last several years. I respect these men immensely. These leaders have shown great courage implementing necessary changes in sexual assault policies and training here in Missoula. They are “true agents of change” because each recognized that the old way of investigating sexual assault, was not the best way. Today, under new protocols, victims are heard, they are not blamed and they are no longer stereotyped. These 4 leaders worked together to ensure through new comprehensive policies implemented by Missoula PD, U of Montana, U of M PD that law enforcement and the University community will no longer fail victims of sexual assault of Missoula, but these new policies will benefit all victims and enhance public safety. Today, Missoula, as a community, is safer. I am proud to share this podium with:

John Engen, Mayor of the City of Missoula; Mike Brady, Chief of the Missoula Police Department; Mike Colyer, Captain of the Missoula Police Department; Royce Engstrom, President of the University of Montana.

I wonder if the man standing behind Pabst understands he’s supposed to evolve along with things like “new protocols” that hopefully include NOT blaming victims. I know of AT LEAST ONE County Attorney under Pabst who absolutely DOES NOT understand updated consent statutes, for example, and it’s not just because I believe things I’m told second-hand by a woman who has had to endure the antics of one little man on Pabst’s prosecution team.

Judge Marks is no longer on that team. Instead, he has been busy concocting a new form of judicial activism with an amazing maneuver that involves a time machine that, on the surface, appears to be just a death certificate. But the specifics regarding that amazing feat will have to wait for another post. Today I’m more interested in how echoes resonate between MISSOULA County and MINERAL County, where the Jasper family has serious clout.

Lance Jasper has had his time under the Zoom Chron lens because his Mandamus move helped peel back the peel on the figurative banana representing criminal justice in Mineral County. And who is taking a direct hand in helping with this Mandamus assault on Mineral County? Jasper’s colleague, Jordan Kilby, who is married to Judge Marks. Should we keep peeling?

Mineral County, like Missoula County, has a former Sheriff who has gone dark. For Mike Toth, it’s because there’s a public court process playing out, along with a legally mandated requirement for him to participate, which he’s currently ignoring. What about MISSOULA’S former Sheriff, T.J. McDermott? Could there be some kind of process playing out behind the scenes? I wonder.

Also, in Mineral County, the legal drama currently pitting the Sheriff’s Office against the County Attorney’s Office amidst a Constitutional crisis was precipitated by the exit of County Attorney, Ellen Dononhue. I couldn’t find any official record of Donohue leaving her office, so here’s something from 2017, when Donohue first took the attorney position. From the link (emphasis mine):

Ellen Donohue is the new Mineral County Attorney, replacing Marcia Boris, who left at the end of last summer. Donohue was hired for the position by a selection committee, and will work for the rest of Boris’ term, which ends in 2018.

Currently she’s renting a place, but may buy a home in the future, “it just depends on how well the community likes me. I plan on sticking around for a while, but I’ve never held an elected position before. It will be up to the voters to decide,” she said.

Were there warning signs that Donohue wasn’t up to the task? I’d say, and that’s because of what Ellen says in the next paragraph:

One thing that has surprised Donohue is the high number of felony cases in Mineral County, given the size of the population. There were 92 cases in 2016, compared to 100 in the Anaconda-Deer Lodge area, which boosts a population of nearly 10,000. But, she understands that a number of those cases stem from Interstate 90, which stretches across the county.

Yes, there is an imbalance between the resources tiny communities along Interstate 90 can deploy when violent criminals botch an armed robbery in Idaho and end up taking a hostage at the Travel Center in St. Regis, Montana. Here is the best local report of what transpired (emphasis mine):

It all started when the Montana Highway Patrol told the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office of a vehicle involved in an armed robbery in Idaho.

Mineral County Undersheriff Wayne Cashman reports that around 11:30 am, the sheriff’s office received a report of a car that was abandoned at the sewer plat in St. Regis.

The caller reported they watched the suspects go to a local hotel, with a woman staying at the hotel while a man went to the travel center.

The woman was put into custody by one deputy, while others went to make contact with the man at the travel center.

When the deputies made contact with the man, he reportedly pulled out a weapon and took a hostage.

The man did not follow any orders to put the gun down, and at one point, he pushed the hostage down, shooting them twice, according to Cashman.

The Mineral County Sheriff’s Office is DAMN LUCKY the hostage wasn’t killed after the decision was apparently made to approach the suspect inside the travel center.

I know some details about what happened because I drove out to St. Regis Saturday evening with my Mineral County investigation partner after news of this incident broke . Here’s a picture I took:

I assume the water on the pavement came from washing the blood away. The suspect died outside, but the woman we spoke with at a local motel indicated there was a lot of blood INSIDE the travel center, presumably from the injured hostage.

The woman also told us she took shelter with her child and traveling companion inside the public bathroom. Her car was shot twice in the parking lot and is now considered evidence, so they were waiting for a family member to drive over from Spokane to get them to their final destination, which was most certainly NOT St. Regis, Montana.

As big leadership changes happen in Missoula and Mineral County, I hope new forms of collaboration can emerge after the acrimony settles down. Because if fruit can do it, so can we!

If you appreciate my independent journalism, please consider making a financial donation at my about page.

Thanks for reading!

UPDATE: a more recent Missoulian article includes the latest information, including what happened to all FOUR people in the get-away car. I’m glad Sheriff Ryan Funke provided a clarifying statement to local media in order to better educate the public on the risk they face.

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