The Bonner County Prosecutor’s Office has dropped charges against the man previously suspected of killing the former city clerk of Hope, Idaho.
Nathan Utt, 41, has been released from jail. Utt had been suspected of killing 78-year-old Shirley Ann Ramey in her home near Hope, Idaho, on April 5. Her husband found her shot to death.
Prosecutor Louis Marshall said Utt was transferred from Spokane, where he was arrested, to Bonner County late Tuesday and was interviewed by detectives early Wednesday. That’s when investigators learned Utt had an alibi that put him in another state at the time of the killing.
“He was at a place that requires photo identification,” he said.
Utt was in Eugene, Oregon, and investigators are trying to find video surveillance footage to further bolster Utt’s alibi, said Undersheriff Ror Lakewold.
At the time of the homicide, Utt was living in a trailer on Trestle Creek Road just a quarter mile from Ramey’s home.
Court documents unsealed Wednesday indicated that Det. Gary Johnston told a judge Friday that Ramey was shot “execution style” and was found lying on the floor near a sliding glass door. Johnston said her husband was playing cards with friends at the senior center that afternoon and had been ruled out as a suspect.
Her husband also voluntarily let investigators test his clothes and hands for gunshot residue.
Nothing was taken from the home. Two shell casings recovered from the deck came from a 9 mm gun, according to court documents. A bullet was recovered from a piece of paneling above a window.
The case against Utt was circumstantial, Marshall said.
“There were some shoe prints that led from his trailer to the house,” he said. “Utt had made some other statements to his brother two days before that were concerning. He was talking about killing old people.”
Court documents indicate that Utt’s mother told investigators that Utt “sees demons in most everybody” and “thinks he is spawned.” Other members of his family said they were afraid of him, court documents state. Johnston said in court that Utt had access to guns but no 9 mm weapon or shell casings were found at his trailer.
Lakewold said that several eyewitnesses had reported seeing Utt in the area the day of the homicide and said investigators aren’t sure why that is if Utt was in Oregon.
“Physical evidence trumps circumstantial evidence every time,” he said.
Investigators have sent evidence to be processed and are waiting for results.
“We’ve made arrangements for some of it to be expedited,” he said.
A new suspect has not been identified but the investigation is continuing, Lakewold said. “We have information that will be explored in greater detail,” he said. “There’s still a lot of interviews to be done.”
Ramey’s family is planning a celebration of life at a later date, according to her obituary. She was a member of the local Garden Club and the Red Hat Society. Her job as the city clerk of Hope spanned more than 25 years and Ramey “so enjoyed her work that she never missed a council meeting even while battling cancer,” the obituary said.
Born Shirley Ann Proctor, she graduated from Newport schools in 1957 and later attended Eastern Washington University, Washington State University and North Idaho College. She and her husband, Daryl, were married for 57 years. She is survived by a sister, two sons, two grandchildren and a great-grandson.
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