PINEDALE – In mid-September, Troy Willoughby filed a lawsuit against former Sublette County Attorney’s Office Investigator Randall Hanson, former Sublette County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) Captain Brian Ketterhagen and SCSO Deputy Sarah Brew for allegedly withholding exculpatory evidence in Willoughby’s 2010 murder trial for the 1984 death of Lisa Elhers
Last week, Ketterhagen resigned from his position of police chief of Tea, S.D., a small suburb of Sioux Falls with a population of around 4,000. He had held that position since leaving the SCSO in 2010.
At the time of his resignation, it was reported the reason was unknown, but an article printed in Wednesday’s Argus Leader tied the resignation to Willoughby’s suit, and the Associated Press states the South Dakota State’s Attorney in Lincoln County, Tom Wollman, is reviewing criminal cases Ketterhagen worked on during his tenure.
“I don’t know that the allegations in the Wyoming complaint are the gospel truth, but it is serious enough that we feel that taking a second look at the cases is the only responsible thing to do,” Wollman told the Argus.
On Wednesday, he told the Roundup, “In light of Willoughby and [Ketterhagen’s] resignation, I felt it was prudent to review the cases he was involved with.”
Wollman added that, due to Ketterhagen’s high level in the department, he was not actively involved with very many cases.
The story also says Wollman’s investigation is unrelated to Ketterhagen’s involvement in the suit.
In late 2010, Detective Lance Gehlhausen approached current Sublette County Sheriff David Lankford with knowledge of evidence that would have aided Willoughby’s case. The claim was that Hanson and Ketterhagen and others conspired to keep the evidence from Willoughby’s lawyer.
In 2011, Willoughby was granted a new trial, and he was released in February of this year after being found not guilty by a jury in Lander.
Willoughby’s suit claims Gehlhausen recorded multiple conversations among the defendants in which they “made explicit statements as to the exculpatory nature of the evidence,” acknowledging Willoughby would likely “walk” should the evidence be turned over.
According to the Argus story, officials in Tea were “blindsided” both by Ketterhagen’s resignation and subsequent discovery of the Wyoming case. Tea’s mayor and two town council members claim they had no knowledge of the suit at the time of Ketterhagen’s resignation, learning about it “later in the week.”
Katterhagen has denied the allegations set forth in Willoughby’s suit, as have Hanson and Brew.
The Argus reported the Tea City Council had only known of Willoughby’s initial trial, not the subsequent revelations and possible retrial, none of which had been revealed at the time of Ketterhagen’s initial hiring as police chief.
A third-party contractor conducted the background check on Ketterhagen in 2010, the town’s mayor told the Argus, noting, at the time, the Wyoming case was seen as a positive for the applicant.
Now, though, it is casting suspicion on the former police chief, and, in addition to review by Wollman’s office, Ketterhagen and former Tea police officer James Klimple, who resigned alongside his boss, are being investigated by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).
A statement from DCI spokesperson Sara Raburn said the DCI investigation arose from a tip made in September and is separate from Ketterhagen’s Wyoming troubles.
No contact information for Ketterhagen could be found, and the Leader noted “No comment” was all he said when a reporter knocked on his door.