SANDPOINT — No laws were broken when the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office concealed records in an unsuccessful attempt to wall off a murder investigation from public knowledge, according to the Idaho Attorney General’s Office.
The Idaho Press Club filed a public corruption complaint with the AG’s office in April, after the Daily Bee reported that county personnel attempted to scrub references to the killing from a Bonner Dispatch EMS run log. The run logs had been previously available to the public before Shirley Ramey was found shot to death in her Trestle Creek home in April.
The run logs were removed from the dispatch website, prompting a complaint to the AG’s public corruption bureau. Idaho law prohibits a law officer or their subordinates from destroying, stealing or altering official governmental records.
But Deputy Attorney General Paul Panther concluded that there was no violation of state law. Panther said Sheriff Daryl Wheeler called for their removal from public view, but found that the original dispatch records remained unaffected and intact.
“Accordingly, no public records were destroyed or altered and the criminal provision discussed above is inapplicable to this situation,” Panther said in an Oct. 10 letter to Betsy Russell, a reporter at the Spokesman-Review and president of the press club.
Wheeler’s attempt to conceal the information was easily sidestepped because the Internet automatically saves cached versions of earlier web pages. The Daily Bee found the cached version of the EMS run log, which revealed the time and location of the call, in addition to which agencies responded. The run log also revealed that shell casings were present at the scene of Ramey’s killing.
The Daily Bee’s publication of the call information enraged sheriff’s officials. A sheriff’s detective upbraided a reporter in a crowded Bonner County Courthouse hallway, cursed and said he was too close to retirement to abide unflattering news reports.
Wheeler has since called for the reporter’s removal and taken to social media to level personal attacks against the reporter.
The killing of Ramey, meanwhile, remains unsolved and sheriff’s officials have ceased releasing information about it.