News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Murder suspect in court: Found lighter led to arrest
Mar 11, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer
Authorities believe Eric Likes and Elva Quiver were stabbed numerous times and died before Ethete teen Laziur Stephen Hanway Jr. set fire to their Hudson mobile home where the bodies were later discovered.
Nearly four months after the Nov. 17 fire, police on Thursday arrested the 19-year-old Hanway for two counts of first-degree murder after searching his home on 17 Mile Road and finding evidence they believe ties him to the crimes.
Hanway is the only suspect arrested in the arson and homicides. Authorities on Friday declined to comment on whether other suspects have been identified.
Hanway made an initial appearance in Riverton Circuit Court on Friday afternoon, where Judge Wesley Roberts increased his bail from $1 to $2 million cash. Roberts also advised Hanway that prosecutors filed five additional charges against him since his March 8 arrest.
According to charging information, the two original first-degree murder charges allege that on or between Nov. 15 and Nov. 17, 2011, Hanway purposely and with premeditated malice killed Eric Clinton Likes, 42, of Hudson, and Elva Charlotte Quiver, 20, of the Wind River Indian Reservation.
The amended information lists two more first-degree murder charges against Hanway that allege he killed the couple in the perpetration of a robbery.
Hanway also faces first-degree arson after police say he maliciously started the fire with the intent to destroy or damage the occupied mobile home.
Counts six and seven, according to court documents, involve aggravated robbery, and allege Hanway used a deadly weapon and intentionally inflicted serious bodily injury in the course of committing a robbery.
Hanway is expected back in court at 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 14, for a preliminary hearing.
Two deputy sheriffs stood guard near Hanway throughout Friday's 20-minute hearing.
Shackled in handcuffs around the ankles, wrists and midsection, and wearing an orange Fremont County Detention Center jumpsuit, the teen kept his head down as Roberts outlined the charges, court procedures and the defendant's rights.
"Do you understand your rights today?" Roberts asked Hanway.
Still hanging his head, Hanway replied "yes."
Roberts said the four murder charges could be punishable by death, life imprisonment without parole. or life imprisonment. The arson charge carries up to 20 years of jail time and fines, and the two aggravated robbery charges each carry five to 25 years in prison.
Fremont County deputy attorney Patrick LeBrun asked the court to raise Hanway's bail, noting, "the strength of the state's case is very strong."
Before a decision was rendered, Hanway told Roberts he has been a resident of Fremont County for "the majority of my life." He said he has family in the area, is employed, and is not on probation or parole.
"This was a rather violent murder of two people in their home," LeBrun argued, adding that Hanway was an "extreme danger for the community."
In a six-page affidavit that accompanies charging documents, Fremont County Sheriff's Office Detective Sgt. William Braddock described the extensive investigation that led to Hanway's arrest.
Braddock said his agency received a call at 9:50 p.m. on Nov. 17 concerning an "explosion and subsequent fire" in a residence on South Ohio Avenue in Hudson.
Hudson and county fire crews responded to the scene.
Braddock said during the cleanup and cause and origin investigation, the remains of two humans were located inside the mobile home.
"The initial determination of the cause and origin of the fire appeared to be caused by a faulty natural gas appliance," Braddock said in his affidavit. "Therefore, once the bodies were removed by the Fremont County Coroner's Office staff, the fire department and law enforcement cleared the scene, leaving the mobile home unsecured, except for plastic crime scene tape establishing a perimeter around the involved mobile home."
An autopsy was performed on the victims on Nov. 19, which Braddock said revealed that Likes and Quiver "were deceased before the fire began and died as the result of, but not limited to, numerous stab wounds."
Braddock said the Wyoming Department of Fire Prevention and Electrical Safety's report classified the fire as "incendiary" because there were pour patterns of an ignitable liquid observed and no evidence of an accidental cause.
During the investigation, Braddock said a Source Gas employee and neighbor of the couple advised a deputy sheriff that he discovered a cigarette lighter while he and a coworker were walking in the alley near the burned-out trailer house testing for gas leaks.
The man told authorities he found the "Zippo" type lighter about 30 yards away from the trailer, lying on top of the snow and mud.
Braddock said the lighter was taken into evidence and tested by the Wyoming State Crime Lab. A forensic examination determined there was a mixture of Likes's and another male's blood on the lighter.
Braddock said blood also was discovered inside Likes's pickup truck parked near his home.
Investigators collected DNA samples from several individuals, including Likes's former employee, Laziur Stephen Hanway Sr.
Braddock said the crime lab determined that the unknown blood belonged to one of Hanway Sr.'s sons. He said further investigation revealed his son, Laziur Stephen Hanway Jr., worked for Likes on several occasions in October and November.
According to Braddock's affidavit, Hanway Jr. confirmed his former employment with Likes in an interview at his home on Feb. 23, but he denied ever being at Likes's home or in his vehicle, Braddock said.
During the interview, Braddock said Hanway volunteered to undergo a DNA cheek swab, which later was determined to be a match for the DNA found in Likes's vehicle and on the lighter.
On the afternoon of March 6, Braddock said, multiple law enforcement agencies launched a search at Hanway's residence.
Hanway reportedly was alone at home at the time.
During the search, Braddock said officers discovered an underground bunker on the property.
"This bunker was covered with an approximately (4-by-5-foot) cover, constructed of a frame of heavy timbers, and covered with wire and material in what appeared to be an attempt to camouflage the bunker," Braddock said.
Inside, Braddock said police found a wooden box of silver flatware that resembled a set of Likes's. Bloody clothing also was discovered.
Braddock said Hanway admitted to officers that the clothes belonged to him.
"When asked where the blood came from, Hanway Jr. advised the blood was a mixture of his own blood, of Eric Likes and blood of Elva Quiver," Braddock said.
Braddock said Hanway led officers to his bedroom. where he showed them two gold rings and a cigarette lighter he said he took from Likes.
Hanway was arrested and detained at the Wind River Police Department's jail before taken into custody Thursday afternoon on a warrant by the sheriff's office.