Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published March 18 2013
Homicides highlight challenges for policing the Oil Patch
The two Williams County homicides in one weekend highlight the continued stress facing Oil Patch law enforcement agencies as the population swells.
Williston Detective Cory Collings said he believes the influx of oil boom workers contributes to an increase in bar fights.
“These guys work 12, 14, 16 hours a day. They want to unwind for the night. Pretty soon we’ve got a bar fight,” Collings said in an interview last week before the two deaths.
Williston police responded to 1,045 calls for service for fights in 2012, a 21 percent increase over the previous year and a 163 percent increase over 2010. The department investigated 45 aggravated assaults in 2012, more than double the previous year and the five-year average.
Overall, calls for service for the Williston Police Department – which includes everything from a barking dog to a homicide – numbered 18,871 in 2012, an 18 percent increase from the previous year.
Officials continue to say they don’t believe the crime rate in Williston is up, but the increase in population is driving more incidents.
“This doesn’t do well for our reputation as a community, but it’s not the Wild West,” Williams County Sheriff Scott Busching said of the two homicides. “We have some undesirables, but we have a lot of good ones, too.”
The sheriff’s office and the Highway Patrol provide backup for bar fights. Busching said his agency is so stressed his detectives are racking up overtime and giving up vacation hours. He said he needs more resources and more affordable housing for staff.
“The state needs to step up to the plate a little bit and send some of this money back,” Busching said, referring to the state’s oil revenue.
The agencies that work closely together have significantly beefed up staffing levels, but major incidents put a strain on resources, authorities said Monday.
“We’re still bursting,” said Williston police Capt. Tom Ladwig. “Activities are at an all-time high. We’re dealing with it, but it’s tough at times.”
The shooting outside a strip club early Saturday led to a three-day manhunt.
Authorities in Billings, Mont., apprehended Jonathan Peter Horvath, 46, Monday afternoon in connection with the shooting.
Lt. Sam Bofto of the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office said authorities apprehended Horvath, who was unarmed, after getting a tip that he had hitchhiked to town.
Police suspect Horvath, who recently moved to Williston from Sandpoint, Idaho, shot 28-year-old Derrick Spiegel of Williston before 1 a.m. Saturday after they argued outside the strip club.
A report from the North Dakota State Forensic Examiner’s Office said Spiegel was shot in the face and head with a 9 mm handgun. He was pronounced dead at 1:16 a.m. at Mercy Medical Center, the report said.
Horvath is expected to appear in court in Montana this afternoon, Bofto said. He had not been charged as of late Monday in connection with the shooting.
An alcohol-infused dispute between roommates at an oilfield crew camp led up to the stabbing death, the Williams County Sheriff’s Office said.
Christopher King, 32, died at Tioga Medical Center. He had been driven there by Ryan N. Anderson, 31, who was arrested at the hospital. The longtime friends had come to North Dakota from Michigan and worked for LW Survey, said Sgt. Detective Caleb Fry.
The men had been drinking in Tioga before returning to their cabin at the Capital Lodge crew camp between Ray and Tioga, Fry said.
King was stabbed with hunting knife, twice in the chest and twice in the abdomen, Fry said. An autopsy is expected to be performed today in Bismarck.
A witness alerted authorities at 4:06 a.m. Sunday.
Anderson is being held in the Williams County Jail. Charges had not been filed late Monday. Bond will be set later this week.
A representative from LW Survey, which has a location in Minot, said the company could not comment.
Kasha Mason, a spokeswoman for Capital Lodge, also declined to comment. No alcohol is allowed at the camp. Crew camps typically don’t allow weapons, but no details were available about Capital Lodge’s weapon policy.
This is the second homicide to occur at a Williams County crew camp. Last August, a Texas man died and an Arkansas man was wounded in a shooting at the Wanzek camp near Tioga.
But Busching said the camps that provide housing for oil boom workers don’t cause more problems than other places.
Remembering a victim
Spiegel, the shooting victim, is survived by his wife, Jessica, and two young children.
Longtime friend Ashley Mervau, who lives across the street from where Spiegel grew up in California, said friends and family were in shock after learning of his death Saturday.
An online effort to raise funds for Spiegel’s family already raised more than $3,000 Monday, and friends are planning a benefit event in Vacaville, Calif., where his family lives, next month.
Spiegel worked in construction, Mervau said.
“He was one of the best friends that you could ever ask for,” Mervau said. “It really just goes to show how many people loved and cared for him.”
A fund to support Derrick Spiegel’s family as been set up at: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/fSnc4
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Dalrymple is a Forum Communications Co. reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. She can be reached at email@example.com or (701) 580-6890.