PINEDALE – The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) announced Friday an arrest in an unsolved assault case from 2010. Brian James McDonald was arraigned in the Sublette County Circuit Court Monday afternoon on multiple charges related to the case.
The arrest comes almost exactly four years after the incident in which a young woman was beaten while asleep in her home. After similar attacks, including one in May of this year, speculation has risen as to whether the cases are connected.
Judge Curt Hawes read out five charges in front of a courtroom full of friends and family members of the victims. McDonald was charged with one count of attempted murder in the first degree, one count of attempted murder in the second degree, aggravated assault and battery, possession of a deadly weapon with unlawful intent and aggravated burglary. Attempted murder in the first degree is a capital felony, and if convicted, McDonald could face life in prison or the death penalty.
McDonald was first investigated in connection to the assault earlier this year. Detective Lance Gehlhausen’s affidavit states a UPS driver noticed McDonald had some injuries and wouldn’t go to the clinic, which the driver found suspicious. As the SCSO questioned McDonald and his wife further, investigators were able to draw a tighter connection between him and the May attack.
At some point during the investigation, the affidavit states, the suspect volunteered a DNA sample. Due to the similarities between the May case and the 2010 case, the sample was sent to the Wyoming Crime Lab for comparison with DNA found in a glove left at the scene four years ago.
On July 10, a crime lab employee called the SCSO confirming McDonald’s DNA was a match to that found in the glove.
McDonald, who sat alone at the defendant’s table Monday, confirmed he understood the charges against him and told Hawes he would neither be able to afford bond nor a lawyer. Sublette County Attorney Neal Stelting asked Hawes for a $1 million bond due to the severity of the case, the evidence against McDonald and the potential harm he poses to the community. Hawes had originally set the bond at $500,000, but raised it at the hearing.
In his affidavit, Gehlhausen reported McDonald and his family had moved to Pinedale around five years ago. He had worked retail jobs but had been fired due to unspecified accusations. In the hearing, McDonald explained to Hawes he has been out of work for three months and was planning to move his family back to Oregon to look for work.
Stelting’s office is also looking at charging McDonald for a 2012 assault, as well as the May attack. The modus operandi in the three cases is almost identical – women attacked while sleeping and beaten about the head and face.
The victim in the first case required a series of surgeries due to her injuries. The second victim was hospitalized for weeks after that attack, and the SCSO has reported injuries in the third case included multiple broken facial bones.
McDonald will remain in custody and will be served by a public defender. His preliminary hearing was set for Tuesday, July 22 at 1:30 p.m. The preliminary hearing is a probable cause hearing in which Stelting and Gehlhausen go through the affidavit and the judge determines if there is enough evidence for the case to be bound over to the district court, which handles felony cases.
The district court arraignment hearing will be where McDonald enters a plea.