Man indicted in 2 deaths has criminal past

By John L. Braese

The Enterprise

An Idaho man accused of murdering his ex-wife and a Vale man last week has a criminal record dating back 25 years, including time in the Oregon prison system.

Anthony Montwheeler, 49, was indicted by a Malheur County grand jury on Jan. 12 for murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree assault.

The new crimes occurred 23 days after Oregon state officials released him from supervision from an earlier case where he was found guilty but insane.

He is now accused of the kidnapping and murder of Annita Harmon, 40, of Weiser. He is accused of the murder of David Bates, 38, of Vale and assaulting Bates’ wife, Jessica, 35, when he collided with them outside Ontario.

Montwheeler on Tuesday remained hospitalized in Idaho, but was expected to be extradited to Malheur County, where a judge has ordered he be held on $2 million bail.

Police said Harmon, who worked at Dickinson Frozen Foods in Fruitland, was kidnapped sometime the morning of Jan. 9 in Weiser. Her car later was found in the middle of a Weiser street.

Harmon was taken across the border into Ontario, where she was seen as a passenger in a Dodge pickup at the J and J Convenience Store. A clerk there called police to report a man later identified as Montwheeler was stabbing a woman in the truck.

Police say Montwheeler fled the store with Harmon and collided with Bates’ Ford Excursion on Oregon Highway 201 near Southwest 18th Avenue, law enforcement authorities said. Harmon and David Bates died and Jessica Bates and Montwheeler were hospitalized. Jessica Bates was released Thursday.

Court records showed that Montwheeler and Harmon married in 2010 and divorced in Idaho in June 2015. The couple had no children, according to records from the Idaho repository.

Montwheeler has a previous prosecution for kidnapping.

On May 3, 1996, Montwheeler was charged with three counts of kidnapping, one count of arson and five counts of carrying or use of a dangerous weapon in Baker County.

According to the Baker Times-Herald, Montwheeler kidnapped his then-wife and 3-year old son. The wife testified that she had told Montwheeler she planned on leaving him and moving to Texas with the son.

Montwheeler forced her into a pick-up, tying her up, and told her he planned on finding and killing her brother.

Montwheeler eventually returned home with his wife and son, releasing her but barricading himself with his son. Witnesses testified that Montwheeler threatened numerous times during the standoff to kill himself and his son.

A police officer who attended high school with Montwheeler eventually persuaded him to surrender. During the trial, Montwheeler underwent a court-ordered evaluation at the Oregon State Hospital on July 2, 1996.

Montwheeler was found guilty except for insanity on the kidnapping and weapons charges.

At his sentencing on Dec. 3, 1996, Montwheeler was placed under supervision of the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board for 70 years instead of a prison sentence.

Such a placement with the board is rare, according to Julia Britton, board executive director.

“We have between 10 to 15 people throughout the state at any time under our board review,” Britton said. “It is a very small percentage of PSRB clients that have some type of community or detainer from the Oregon Department of Corrections.”

Britton said her board only takes on a person when a court finds a defendant guilty except for insanity.

“We are able to supervise the person as long as a court deems,” said Britton. “In this case, the limit was 70 years.”

Additional arrests

In 2003, Montwheeler was arrested by the Ontario Police Department for Union County charges of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, first-degree theft and second-degree theft. At the time of the arrest, Montwheeler was transported to the state hospital in Salem, according to the court records.

The new criminal charges were dropped when a civil compromise was reached.

In 2005, Montwheeler was convicted in Malheur County of reckless burning and sentenced to 18 months’ probation, according to court records.

That same year, he was convicted in Payette for grand theft. He originally was sentenced to 18 to 30 months in prison. Judge Susan Weibe converted the sentence to 90 days in jail on June 2, 2005. Montwheeler was also ordered to pay $11,500 in restitution.

Court records show that in 2014, a warrant was issued for Montwheeler for failing to pay fines and restitution in that case. As of Jan. 4, 2017, the Idaho case remained open for non-payment of the fines and restitution.

As that case worked through the Idaho court system, Montwheeler faced new criminal troubles, this time in Grant County. In 2012, he was charged with theft for failing to pay for all the scrap metal taken from a Grant County through his recycling business. At the time, he was married to Annita Harmon at the time and she was charged and convicted for first-degree aggravated theft as well.

According to court records, the Montwheelers received $50,000 for the scrap metal, but paid the Grant County couple only $12,500.

Montwheeler was sentenced to 24 months in prison and state Corrections Department records show that he was imprisoned on Sept. 27, 2012, and released on April 21, 2014.

He then was transferred to the Oregon State Hospital according to state records, but details weren’t available about why he was sent there or for how long he was a patient.

“Due to doctor/patient confidentiality, there are certain things we cannot release,” said Britton.

After her conviction, Harmon was supervised by Idaho authorities. They said that due to good behavior, Harmon was discharged early from supervision on July 25, 2016.

Meantime, Harmon, challenged her conviction and the Oregon Court of Appeals in April 2016 reversed her conviction. The court agreed with her that she hadn’t been allowed to call a key witness for her defense. The court also wiped out the conviction for Anthony Montwheeler.

He remained under the jurisdiction, however, of the Psychiatric Security Review Board for the earlier kidnapping case.

Unlike other felons, after release from a prison or state hospital, those under the board are not supervised by parole officers. Instead, supervision comes from county mental health employees.

“We do not have people unsupervised,” Britton said.

Montwheeler’s supervision was transferred to Idaho in 1997 with Idaho discharging him from its supervision in 2008.

At this time, it is unclear who was actively supervising Montwheeler from the time Idaho released him until the Oregon Psychiatric Board released Montwheeler from supervision Dec. 17, 2016.