|Familiar Story by a Different Name|
IGW documents a story that has become legendary in this profession: the Pogue and Elms tragedy. It is our attempt to tell this familiar story in the officers' names, on their behalf, in a way that can be heard around the world.
photo was shared with us by retired officer Jerry Thiessen -- pictured
to the right of the campfire -- in tribute to his friend and colleague
Bill Pogue, left. The inscription on the photograph, which Bill gave to
and Elms: A Tragic Loss
Prepared by Wyoming CO Mike Ehlebracht
1981, Claude Dallas killed Idaho Conservation Officers Bill Pogue and
Conley Elms. The only eyewitness to the crime, Jim Stevens, was put on
a polygraph four times within days of the killings. Each time, he passed.
Based on Stevens' story and investigative reports written shortly after
the crime, I offer the following account.
1981, CO Bill Pogue received what seemed to be a routine complaint from
the son of a rancher in southwest Owyhee County. The rancher's son had
ridden through Dallas' camp and had seen illegal deer and bobcat hides
on stretchers. (He later stated that he felt his life was in danger the
whole time he was in the presence of Dallas.) About 11 p.m. that night,
Officers Pogue and Elms left the Boise area en route to Owyhee County.
January 5, around mid-morning, after contacting a group of trappers and
citing them for various violations, the officers approached the area of
Dallas' camp and parked their vehicle at the end of the road. The camp
was about 3/4 of a mile away along the South Fork of the Owyhee River.
From a distance,
the officers determined that Dallas was not at his camp, but they located
him some distance above it. When they made contact with Dallas, they told
him why they were there. The officers took a .22 caliber pistol from Dallas,
removed the shells, and returned it to him. They walked back to the camp
where they met Jim Stevens who periodically brought Dallas mail and supplies.
They informed Dallas that he was under arrest, but did not handcuff him.
The officers could see some of the bobcat hides in the tent and Conley
Elms went in to retrieve them. Meanwhile, Dallas asked several times if
he was under arrest and Pogue answered him each time, saying he was. As
Elms emerged from the tent, Pogue shifted his attention. At that moment,
Dallas reached for the .357 Magnum he had under his coat. Pogue apparently
saw what was coming and drew his own weapon but never returned fire. He
was shot twice in the chest and went down. Dallas then shot Elms two times
in the chest, and fired his last two shots into Pogue. He went into the
tent, loaded his .22 caliber pistol and shot each officer in the head.
Pogue's body onto one of the camp's mules, they headed to Stevens' Blazer.
Then they loaded Elms' body for the same trip. Elms was a large man weighing
nearly 300 pounds, and the small mule went down during the trip out of
the canyon. Dallas then drug Elms' body back to the river and dumped it
into the South Fork. Most of the clothes came off Elms' body during the
dragging process so Dallas gathered them up and burned them along with
any other evidence he could find.
Stevens drove to Paradise Junction, Nevada, and around 11 p.m., went to
a bar owned by a friend of Dallas' named George Nielsen. When they told
Nielsen what happened, he and Dallas had a conversation to the effect
that killing two conservation officers was on the same level as taking
a deer out of season.
provided Dallas with a truck and gas to haul Pogue's body into the desert
and dispose of it. When he returned about two hours later, Nielsen took
Dallas about 14 miles south of town and dropped him off in the desert.
known to be an expert with firearms and to be particularly good at police
combat shooting. He purchased an AR-15 assault rifle in Sandpoint, Idaho
sometime prior to the killings. When police searched his belongings after
the killings, they found a flak vest, gas mask, an entire library on warfare
and how to kill, as well as several thousand rounds of fully automatic
his supporters maintain that he killed the officers in self-defense, but
his actions, attitude and comments before, during and after the killings
Pogue and Elms Families: Twenty Years Later
twenty years ago, Conley and Cheri Elms had applied to adopt a daughter
together, but Alia didn't arrive from India until several months after
her father's death. She is now in her freshman year of college and wants
to study elementary education. Cheri has never remarried.
Turner and her sister Linda have been involved in the Idaho Peace Officers
Memorial Fund since 1994. The memorial for Idaho's law enforcement officers
who died in the line of duty was dedicated in 1998. Her entire family
has been very involved in the project, helping raise funds, and Jodi is
Vice President. The group will be adding two more names to the memorial
at the annual ceremony in May.
an update on her family: "Dad's kids are all grown - he would have
eight grandkids now. His youngest daughter, Kate, just had her first baby
(Anna). His other grandkids are Jake (21, Military Intelligence in the
Army), Jacki (18, just graduating from high school), Adam (age 7), Lisa
(also 18, graduating from high school), Andrea (13), Bill (19, freshman
year of college), and Sarah (18, graduating from high school). Dee Pogue
is still unmarried."
Jodi said she can hardly believe the support the family has received with regard to Dallas' early parole hearing. When she spoke to the parole board in March, they reported receiving an average of 30 letters per DAY asking that parole be denied. By the end of March, estimates neared 1000 letters. She said that from her few requests for support, she's received copies of letters from almost every state. They have come from Forest Service, Fish and Game, USFWS, police officers, and even one from a Military Police officer stationed in Korea, but mostly from COs in the U.S. Calibre Press printed Jodi's request in their newsletter, generating more than 300 letters. She is overwhelmed by the outreach her family has experienced twenty years after the tragedy. She feels she will never be able to thank everyone enough.
Editor's note: Our appreciation goes to Mike Ehlebracht for sharing his abilities and passion in writing a good and fair account of these deaths, to Bill Pogue and Conley Elms' many friends and colleagues who honor them in so many ways twenty years after their deaths, and to Jodi Pogue Turner for her guidance and tenacity in the face of this painful memory.
|Pogue and Elms: Chronology of the Case|
by Jodi Pogue Turner