Despite a number of high-profile tragedies, Wyoming homicides in 2012 fell back to average after a disturbing spike was reported in 2011.
Barring a year-end disaster, 21 Wyoming residents were killed by homicide in 2012. This number is fewer than half of the 43 homicides from the year prior, according to statistics gathered by the Wyoming Department of Health.
In late 2011, Deputy Director of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Kebin Haller told the Star-Tribune he hoped that year’s numbers were an aberration rather than a budding trend.
The 2012 count falls just below Wyoming’s average of 24.5 homicides per year since 2005, when the Department of Health began compiling comprehensive statistics. Since then the numbers have fluctuated relatively drastically, from 16 in 2010 to the peak in 2011.
Even including 2011 figures, Wyoming’s homicide rate per 100,000 people is typically lower than the national average. The state's rate in 2011 was 3.2 and in 2010 was 1.4, according to FBI statistics. The U.S. average was 4.7 in 2011 and 4.8 in 2010.
Wyoming’s small population means even smaller actual numbers in comparison to other states.
Casper Police Lt. Mike Thompson said there’s no single factor driving the murders. The inconsistencies in Wyoming’s sparse homicides make them difficult to predict and thus prevent.
“It’s not like in some cities, where you have gang homicide issues,” he said. “Ours are far more random. Most frequently, it’s an emotionally based type of situation.”
In May, Casper resident Walt McMillin shot his wife Jodi to death with a .38-caliber revolver before committing suicide. The couple had a history of domestic violence, Casper police said at the time. A Lander man, John Thomas Hereford, is accused of shooting and killing Travis Armajo on Sept. 11 and additionally sexually assaulting a woman at the residence at gunpoint.
But perhaps no Wyoming murder fits Thompson’s account more accurately than the Chris Krumm homicides of late November.
After driving nearly 2,000 miles from Vernon, Conn., to Casper, Chris Krumm shot his father, Jim, in the head with a bow and arrow and stabbed him to death in Jim’s classroom. Chris ultimately turned the knife on himself and was dead shortly after his father had passed. Earlier that morning, Chris stabbed Jim’s girlfriend, Heidi Arnold, to death just outside her home.
In a letter police discovered shortly after the murders, Chris Krumm explained that he hated his father and perceived that Jim had passed Asperger’s Syndrome on to him. Authorities found no evidence that Chris was ever diagnosed with Asperger’s and additionally found no previous criminal record.
“Some of these crimes have been more high-visibility...and it really brings it to the forefront,” Thompson said of the Krumm murders and the recent elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
“It really saddens us in law enforcement that we can’t be everywhere at one time.”