Cold Case Investigators Look into 1991 Homicides near Lake Inez
In 1991, Iva Larue and Kenneth Cheatham were vacationing in the area near Lake Inez up Highway 83 and were shot and killed on or about July 31.
The case was investigated by the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, but no arrests were made and over the years the case went cold, until two women took up the challenge of investigating the murders, Diana Parker and Susan Lane.
Parker and Lane were introduced to the media on Thursday morning by Sheriff T.J. McDermott.
“I’d like to introduce Diana Parker and Susan Lane,” said McDermott. “They are retired federal agents with extensive experience with criminal investigations. They are volunteers with our Sheriff’s Office being supervised by our Detective Captain Dave Conway.”
Conway said there were persons of interest during the original investigation, but he hopes with new technology and the expertise of Parker and Lane that new leads can be uncovered.
Parker said she spent most of her career in the southwest.
“I spent my career with the FBI primarily in the Albuquerque division, and I worked on a violent crimes squad mostly in Indian country. And I was on a cold case squad task force working on missing persons cases in New Mexico,” said Parker.
Susan Lane began her career with the U.S. Customs Service.
“I was a special agent criminal investigator with them and that became Homeland Security investigations, so most of my experience is related to transnational organized crime,” said Lane.
Asked why she volunteered to help the cold case investigation, Lane said she enjoys uncovering and following clues to help solve a crime.
“The ability to take a little thread and pull it to see where it takes us, and hopefully it will take us someplace new,” she said. “This has been looked at over the years and people did a phenomenal job at the time, and that’s why we’re so hopeful now with all the new technology that might give us that new breakthrough. To bring it to closure would be fantastic for the family as well as for the department.”
The Sheriff’s Office issued the following press release with information as to how to contact them with leads to help solve this cold case.
‘The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office would like to introduce new members of our office whose sole responsibility is to investigate unsolved cases. Both these women standing with me today are retired Federal agents with extensive experience investigating to successful resolution a variety of violent crimes.
Most recently we have been revisiting the 1991 homicides of Iva LaRue and Kenneth Cheetham (whose photos you see here today). They were a married couple on a road trip visiting our community who were shot and killed near Lake Inez in the Swan Valley on or about July 30, 1991. Both died from gunshot wounds.
At the time of their deaths, LaRue and Kenneth were driving the van you also see pictured here today. The van was discovered at the end of a new logging road west of Lake Alva on August 5, 1991. The bodies of LaRue and Kenneth were located approximately two miles south of the van on September 11, 1991. It is possible the van was moved to this location by a person or persons not associated with the homicides.
A Hitachi VM-5200A video camera and case was stolen from the victim's van either by the killer or killers or possibly by individuals who moved the van. If you saw, acquired or know someone who acquired a Hitachi camcorder in the summer or fall of 1991, we are asking you to contact us. The camera may have been pawned or sold and the person who ultimately acquired the camera would have no knowledge about its origins.
We are reviewing evidence found on and near the bodies of LaRue and Kenneth as well as the van. Technology not available at the time of the crime has allowed us to develop new investigative leads of interest. As many of you have likely seen in the media lately, advancements in fields such as genealogy and DNA analysis has led to resolution in many other cold cases.
We believe people who are familiar with the circumstances surrounding this case remain in our community.
Law enforcement is aware that there is information that has not been shared. It is sometimes the case that people who may have knowledge don’t initially come forward because of their relationships to people involved, concerns for their safety, or they may not realize information that they had is important. We recognize that relationships change over time as do people and their perspectives. It is not too late to come forward.
We are asking for your cooperation. Please contact us with any information you have regarding the van or the deaths of LaRue and Kenneth even if you have previously provided information. Our investigative techniques enable us to rule out innocent persons. Therefore anyone who may have information relevant to this case should not be concerned about inadvertently getting someone who is not involved in trouble.
Please contact us through Facebook, Twitter, or our tipline: 406-258-3302.
Furthermore, if you are worried about the circumstances in which you obtained this information your identity can remain anonymous.’