RIVERTON — Law enforcement and family members pleaded for the public’s help Tuesday in solving a double homicide earlier this year, saying they need tips from community members.
Police found Jocelyn Watt and Rudy Perez, both 30, inside Watt’s Riverton home on Jan. 5 — eight months ago today — dead from gunshot wounds. Investigators have made no arrests despite a thorough investigation that’s included interviews, review of surveillance footage and help from other law enforcement agencies, Riverton Police Department Detective Sgt. Eric Smits said at a Tuesday news conference about the case.
But as they continue to investigate, he said police now need help from the public to solve the double homicide, asking anyone with information about the homicides to contact the police department at 307-857-7732.
“Unfortunately there is no person or persons in custody for the murders,” said Smits, flanked by some of Watt’s family members and a tribal leader. “We have come to the point (in) the investigation which requires further assistance from the community.”
Watt, who was Northern Arapaho, enjoyed singing and was known for her sense of humor and a caring heart, said her mother, Nicole Wagon. She was the oldest of five daughters.
“She was an amazing person and I’m so proud of her,” Wagon said. “She worked hard to be there for her sisters.”
Wagon, who was at the press update with her father, a daughter, and friend and Northern Arapaho Business Council member Stephen Fast Horse, said she hopes anyone with information comes forward so the person or persons who killed Watt and Perez can be held responsible.
“Please, if you have any information, call the Riverton Police Department. They are working tirelessly to find the person or persons responsible, but they need your help,” she said. “Don’t allow another family to go through this.”
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Perez was raised in Rhode Island and moved to Riverton in 2016, where he worked as an electrician, according to his online obituary. He enjoyed motorcycles, cars and made those around him laugh.
The plea for help in the investigation comes as lawmakers, law enforcement officials and others begin to recognize — and look for ways to address — the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous people, who are victims of violent or sex crimes at higher rates than the rest of the U.S. population.
More than four in five Indigenous women and men have experienced violence in their lifetime, according to a 2016 National Institute of Justice study. And according to a 2013 National Congress of American Indians policy paper, American Indians and Alaska Natives are 2.5 times as likely to experience violent crimes and at least twice more likely to experience rape or sexual assault compared to other races.
In Wyoming, the increased attention has led to proposed legislation, a billboard campaign and the creation of a task force to determine the scope of the problem in the state and make recommendations to address it. The group started meeting in July.
When Gov. Mark Gordon unexpectedly announced that he would form the task force to examine the problem in April at a University of Wyoming student group event to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, he even did so in front of a banner of photos of Watt, according to the Laramie Boomerang.
At Tuesday’s event in Riverton, Fast Horse said the tribe wants safer communities and hopes that they and other Wyomingites can help police solve the case. While they appreciate the support and condolences since the killings, he said he wants anyone with relevant information to do “the right thing” and tells investigators.
“It’s so difficult and enduring for them to carry on every day not knowing,” he said. “We continue to hope and pray that these things will be resolved. … Jocelyn was a very beautiful soul, and many people experienced that just interacting with her.”