NewsCrime and Courts


Sister of Mike Crites files wrongful death suit against alleged killer

John Michael Crites
Leon Ford
Posted at 7:59 AM, Jul 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-04 01:08:02-04

HELENA — The sister of John “Mike” Crites, who disappeared in 2011 and whose remains were later found dismembered, has filed a civil suit seeking damages from the man accused of killing her brother.

Connie Crites filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Leon Ford of Oak Harbor, Washington, and an unknown individual who may share responsibility for the death of Mike Crites. The lawsuit wants recompense for "all damages at law, legal fees, and any other appropriate relief."

Crites was last seen in June 2011. In October 2011, his dismembered remains were discovered in plastic bags on the east side of MacDonald Pass. His skull was found several miles west of the pass in September 2012. An autopsy showed that Crites, who was 48 at the time of his disappearance, died from two gunshot wounds to the head.

Crites lived on a property along Turk Road, in a rural area outside Birdseye northwest of Helena. Ford owned property adjacent to Crites on Turk Road. Court documents say there had been years of disputes between the two men over access to that land. A branch of Turk Road runs through Crites’ property before leading to Ford’s land. Crites had put up a gate across that road, claiming there wasn’t a legal easement for Ford to use it.

New details about the arrest of a suspect in the murder of John "Mike" Crites

The charging documents say investigators found cable ties at both locations where Crites’ remains were discovered. The ties were eventually identified as a specific type last produced in September 2011. Authorities said the manufacturer told them the ties were only available from specific distributors and had to be special-ordered.

Investigators found records from a contractor at the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, where Ford worked, showing he had taken some of those ties from a warehouse, but that there was no identification of what project they were supposed to be used for.

Ford was arrested in August 2020 on charges of deliberate homicide and tampering with evidence. His trial is set to begin on January 24, 2022.

Suspect in murder of John Crites makes his first court appearance in Helena