When a Murder Happens Here, Things Play Out Differently

The Investigative Services Branch is called when crimes occur in national parks
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2018 7:33 AM CDT
Updated Oct 21, 2018 6:41 AM CDT
A Dead Wife, a National Park, a Different Kind of Investigation
Longs Peak seen from the summit of Deer Mountain, Rocky Mountain National Park.   (Getty Images)

When Investigative Services Branch (ISB) Special Agent Kristy McGee displays her badge while investigating a crime, the reaction is generally a confused one. "They'll say something like, 'What do you guys investigate? Littering?'" she explains to Rachel Monroe. In a lengthy piece for Outside, Monroe reports these agents are hardly looking into pedestrian crimes. Rather, they're "the National Park Service’s homegrown equivalent to the FBI," dispatched to murder scenes, sent to hunt down fugitives, and tasked with intercepted drug shipments across the NPS' more than 85 million acres. There are only 33 of the agents, and their challenges are unique. "While frontcountry criminals usually have the courtesy to break the law indoors, the ISB’s crime scenes may be at the bottom of a steep cliff or in the middle of a rushing river," writes Monroe.

She digs into what it's like to be an ISB agent by focusing on a high-profile crime that took place in Rocky Mountain National Park on Sept. 29, 2012: Toni Henthorn's murder. At first, it wasn't known to be murder. Henthorn's husband, Harold, called 911 to say his wife had fallen 150 feet from a Deer Mountain trail while on a celebratory hike for their 12th anniversary. But the case quickly turned suspicious, and ISB agent Beth Shott was assigned to it. Monroe tracks Shott's dogged work in trying to get her man, something she succeeded at: digging into Harold's tax records, accessing his cell-phone data (which revealed a weird discovery involving Panera), having the site filmed by a drone, and trying to make sense of Harold's statement that the couple had veered off the trail to get some "romantic time." Read the incredible full story here. (More Longform stories.)

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