Mike Crites, an outdoor enthusiast living in Montana, ran into a land dispute over road easements that became increasingly confrontational.

Turk Road is a rutted path cutting through the hills of Montana. It's not much to look at, but over the last few years, use of this dirt road has triggered violent threats and armed confrontation.

With less than seven people per square mile, Montana remains one of the last great frontiers. That's exactly what attracted Mike Crites, an avid outdoorsman who owned 80 acres off Turk Road just outside Helena.

"This particular lifestyle suited mike because, number one, he loved nature, and number two, Mike was a little frustrated, as we all get, with authority and rules and things like that and he wanted to live off the grid," said Connie Crites, Mike's sister.

Crites built a home with no running water and no electricity, living alone save for his beloved "wolf dogs" -- canines that are 87-percent wolf.

That rugged self-reliance also appealed to Mike's neighbors, Gloria and Marc Flora, a pair of devout conservationists.

Despite being a loner, Mike Crites made quick friends with the Floras.

"It's not against the law to be odd or eccentric, and that's what he was. And he liked to live out by himself, and if you didn't want any trouble with Mike, all you had to do was leave him alone," said Marc. "That's all you had to do, he wasn't out looking for trouble with anyone."

But trouble found Mike when John Mehan and his wife moved onto Turk Road.

Turk Road is neither public nor private. Instead, land owners secure "easements," a form of legal permission that allows them to use the road when it passes through another's property.

The trouble is that Mike Crites lived near the end of Turk Road. The Floras lived a little farther south. And below both of them, the road runs through John Mehan's property. Mehan's home sits well off the road.

"Mehan and his wife maintain that no one has a right to cross that, they own it and they aren't opening it up to anyone," said Dutton.

"That doesn't make any sense, that road had been in place 40-odd years," said Marc Flora. "It was certainly used by other people since they moved there. I mean it's a giant road."

"Michael Crites maintained when he bought his land that he did have an easement to cross all roads into his property," said Sheriff Dutton. "That was the genesis of the argument. Then neither one wanted to back down."

"They harassed Mike and they blocked the road, they blocked the road with snow, they blocked the road so that other people couldn't get through," said Connie Crites.

"When Mike would make it out to town Mehan would have to see him go by because Mike would have to go by Mehan's place and as soon as Mike left, Mehan would get on his snowmobile and race up to Mike's property, terrorize his dogs, do loops around his house on his snowmobile and then race down before Mike'd get back," said Marc Flora.

Mike Crites began recording video evidence of his encounters with John Mehan.

Mike also taped another incident.

"Tracks come right down from his driveway," Crites says in the video. "Right down the road he's continued to pile snow in front of and try and block -- Well, I'm hoping you guys just heard that shot. I just heard a bullet fly over my head. So we'll see if that's enough to make you law-enforcement types do something. Hope you will. 'Cause it's not getting any better up here."

"My brother expressed his fear for his life numerous times to law enforcement," said Connie Crites.

"They called a lot, 'You crossed my land, you plowed me in, you tried to run me off the road,' those were the kinds of things beginning to escalate," said Dutton.

Montana resident Mike Crites disappears amid an ongoing turf war with neighbors over access roads.

John Mehan was refusing to allow neighbors to cross his property unless they let him roam free on theirs.

Marc and Gloria Flora claim they were forced to deal with a constant barrage of road blocks and violent threats.

"Well, we went to the police, to the sheriff's department. That didn't work. Went to the county attorney, that didn't work," said Marc Flora. "Tried every legal means we could to stop it, every legal means we could."

But "Mountain Man Mike" Crites refused to back down to Mehan. And that was proving very dangerous.

"My brother had videotaped an actual altercation where this neighbor down the road was pointing a gun at my brother," said Connie Crites.

Mehan was charged with a misdemeanor and ordered to remain 1,500 feet away from Mike.

But he wasn't the only threat. Leon Ford, a retired military man, owned undeveloped land just north of Mike.

Leon Ford wanted to use an old logging road on Mike's property as a shortcut to his own. When Mike refused, a second turf war erupted.

By the summer of 2011, Mike was feeling trapped, and shared his fears with close friend Chris Forseth.

"He flat just looked at me and said 'Chris, they're going to kill me,'" said Forseth. "I just kind of blew it off -- come on they aren't going to kill you over a road. And that was the last time I seen Mike."

"We know that John Mehan told at least three people that an ex-military man was coming up in two weeks and was going to take care of Mike once and for all," said Gloria Flora.

"That Leon Ford was going to show up and finish Mike off," said Marc.

"Two weeks later an ex-military man shows up and Mike disappears," said Gloria.

June 26, 2011: Mike calls Marc and Gloria Flora and tells them that Ford asked for a meeting to discuss their ongoing dispute.

"He called me about 10 minutes to 9 in the morning and asked me to come help him because he was afraid Leon Ford was going to kill him, and I didn't go," said Marc. "He called me and asked me to come over and witness the conversation. We told Mike, Videotape it, don't expose yourself, record the conversation, and he said he would. That was the last time I talked to Mike."

Later the next day, the Floras spotted a wolf dog in their yard.

"I saw that in fact it was Mike's wolf, I knew it because it had a chain," said Marc. "I went back to the house and instantly I had a terrible feeling. I had known Mike for 11 years and his dogs had never been out."

"Mike's dogs would've never been running loose. That's when I knew it was something serious," said Connie Crites.

A search of Mike's house turned up no signs of violence, but no signs of Mike either.

A desperate search led to a grisly discovery.

"We knew we had a homicide on our hands," said Sheriff Dutton.

In June 2011, Mike Crites, a missing modern-day mountain man locked in a dangerous land dispute turned up dismembered.

In June 2011, Mike Crites, a modern-day mountain man locked in a dangerous land dispute disappeared without a trace.

In their search for clues, police do find something. The Floras security cameras captured images of Leon Ford's truck driving toward and away from Mike's home on the day he went missing.

But Mike's friends and family already assume the worst.

According to Connie Crites, both Leon Ford and John Mehan claimed Mike ran off because of a lawsuit they supposedly served against him three months earlier.

"I did not find one shred of documentation about a lawsuit alleging Mike harassed these people," said Connie.

"Mike was not served with a lawsuit, Mike would've told us immediately, he would've been on the phone in a New York minute, 'Oh my god, they're filing a lawsuit against me,'" said Gloria Flora.

The theory that Mike was on the run came to an abrupt end four months later when a Forest Service employee came upon a bag of dismembered bones.

"Either coyotes or some animal had dug up the remains because possibly the smell, and pulled the bag partially out of the dirt," said Sheriff Dutton.

While everyone waited for DNA results, John Mehan ran afoul of the law once again.

"John Mehan was arrested for tampering with evidence," said Dutton. "We had put up trail cameras in order to gather information on who was moving in areas toward Crites's land and on that trail camera it was clear that John Mehan walked up to it, then it went blank. He was arrested and charged with tampering with evidence."

In the affidavit against Meehan, authorities revealed a potentially damning detail.

According to the affidavit acquired by Crime Watch Daily, Mehan informed a citizen that the bones could not be identified because they were missing a head -- a fact police had not released to the general public.

The affidavit also revealed that Leon Ford and his wife lied to police on multiple occasions regarding their actions on the day Mike went missing.

In January 2012, the confirmation everyone feared: The dismembered body was indeed that of Mike Crites.

A short time later, Mike's head was unearthed several miles from where his body was found.

"Similar circumstances as the first, very close to the road and buried very shallow," said Sheriff Dutton. "The remains that were found were on two different sides of the continental divide, put in bags and buried. That was unusual."

Four years later and still no one's been charged with Mike's murder.

Comments