A man running with his 11-year-old on Caribou Creek Road, off Pack River Road in Bonner County, reported finding what appeared to be a dead body in a utility sled off the side of the road at about 3:51 p.m. Thursday, December 10.
Lance Gidley called 911 from his home, saying he did not take a closer look because his son with him.
Bonner County Sheriff’s Detective Jordan Thomson arrived on scene at about 5:46 p.m., he wrote in his probable cause affidavit, which resulted in first degree murder warrants and the arrests of Cantrip Velite Gatens, 28, and Neal Mouser, 59, for the shooting death of Brandon Hurst, 38, Bonners Ferry, identified at autopsy December 14.
“I looked over the cliff side and saw an obviously deceased adult male,” Thomson wrote. “The decedent appeared to be partially within a black utility sled … The male was partially wrapped in a camouflage colored tarp. The decedent was located approximately 18′ down the cliffside from the roadway.
The autopsy revealed that Hurst had suffered bullet wounds on the right side of his neck, his right rib cage, right forearm, and both hands.
In his affidavit, Thomson wrote that he informed Hurst’s brother, Darrell Voegele of his brother’s death, and was told Hurst, a drug user since age 14, had been struggling with meth and heroin addiction of late, the worst it had ever been, that he’d been stealing to feed his addiction, to include having stolen a Chrysler PT Cruiser from him, still unaccounted for.
Voegele said that Brandon often stayed at a “compound” on Lois Lane in the Pack River area known for drug activity and that he’d been kicked out in the past for stealing, and possibly over drug debts. It was less than a mile and a half from where Hurst’s body was discovered.
He told the investigator that Brandon said his girlfriend, Cantrip, also known as Velite, was pregnant with his child.
Based on what Voegele told him, Thompson learned that on October 18, fled an attempted traffic stop, first driving and then on foot, and was taken into custody after being found hiding under a car. She was bleeding from the left side of her head, and required medical attention before being booked. She would give the arresting officer nothing but that she’d been battered by Brandon.
Investigator Thomson reviewed a jail video call of November 5 made by Cantrip to Hurst in which she told Brandon he was a narc and blamed him for beating her on the night of her arrest. He denied the allegation, and accused Cantrip of being pregnant by someone else.
Charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, attempting to elude an officer, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia, she was released on her own recognizance October 29.
On the evening of December 15, Cantrip went to the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office for a requested interview, where she was asked if she’d heard of Hurst’s death. She first said “no,” but immediately recanted, saying about 10 people had reached out to let her know.
“She appeared emotionless,” Thomson wrote.
During the interview, she told detectives she had met Brandon about four years earlier and they’d started dating in June, 2020, but that he was “too clingy,” and they’d broken up in July or August.
She said she started dating Christopher Gervasi and his girlfriend, Shania Truitt, started dating Brandon in October. She said Brandon was obsessed with her, stalking her and frequently sending her text messages.
She said she lost all romantic feelings for Hurst “after she was struck in the head” October 18.
When asked when she’d last seen him, she said about one month after her6 October 18 arrest, saying she told him her car had broken down and she aseked him to come work on it. Questioned, she eventually told detectives it was on the “compound” on Lois Lane.
Asked if she was carrying Hurst’s child, she said she learned while in jail that she was not pregnant.
On December 16, Detectives interviewed Darrin Kuchery at the compound, who said he’d last seen Hurst a few weeks earlier at the compound, in “his” PT Cruiser with Cantrip and her new boyfriend, Jacob Vanetten. He said they left as he was leaving, and he watched them turn left toward Caribou Creek rather than right toward Highway 95.
Detectives interviewed Vanetten in the Boundary County Jail December 17. According to the probable cause affidavit, Vanetten said he drove Gatens to Spokane on November 21, the day before his birthday. During the ride, he said, she’d expressed her anger, telling him Brandon had hit her on the head and that he was a narc.
“Jacob assumed they were going to pick someone up and they were going to beat up Brandon as revenge,” Thomson wrote. In Spokane, they picked up Mouser, and on the way back to Bonner County, he listened, he said, as Gatens and Mouser plotted murder.
He stopped at a gas station near Athol, and Mouser went in. Vanetten said he pled with Cantrip not to go through with it, telling her he wanted to spend his life loving her, and not through the bars of a prison cell. Mouser returned and Gatens took the wheel, and Vanetten said he tried to talk both out of it, but Neal turned to him and said, “the decision has been made.”
Shown a photo lineup, he unerringly pointed to Mouser’s photo.
Cantrip drove past the compound, “Scott’s house,” VanEtten said, referring to property owner Scott Kachel. Drawing a map, he traced their route up Pack River Road and left on what was Caribou Creek Road. They parked VanEtten’s Subaru past a shop. VanEtten and Gatens walked a path to the compound, and she called Hurst on her cell phone, asking him to come help with her car.
Hurst pulled up in the PT Cruiser, Gatens and VanEtten got in and they directed Hurst to VanEtten’s Subaru. Once there, Vanetten told detectives, he and Gatens walked up to the Subaru and began raising the hood when Mouser emerged from the woodline and approached the PT Cruiser from the passenger side.
Mouser, the affidavit reads, suddenly began firing on Hurst, still sitting in the driver’s seat of the PT Cruiser. When the shooting started, VanEtten said he slammed the hood of the Subaru, jumped into the driver’s seat a ducked down. Seeing Gatens standing outside the open passenger door, he grabbed her and pulled her into the car.
“Neal was then seen opening the driver’s side door of the PT Cruiser,” the affidavit reads. “Neal removed Brandon from the car and threw him down into the snow. Neal got into the PT Cruiser and left.”
As VanEtten began backing up to leave, the headlights washed over Hurst’s body and Gatens said he was still breathing. VanEtten drove Gatens to her home before her curfew, then returned to the compound, hoping, he said, to find Hurst alive.
He led Kachel to Hurst’s body, who appeared deceased, VanEtten said. He said he watched Kuchel, using his four-wheel ATV with an attached utility sled, wrap Hurst’s body in a tarp, place it on the sled and drove out of sight.
On December 18, the PT Cruiser was located in a Spokane storage yard, having been abandoned in the City of Spokane and impounded. Bonner County deputies recovered the vehicle, returning it to Bonner County, where blood and blood spatter was found on the steering wheel, the driver’s door panel and the driver’s seat.
Bonner County Prosecutor Lewis Marshal confirmed that Cantrip Velite Gatens, 28, Sandpoint, was arrested on a warrant for conspiracy to commit first degree murder issued Tuesday, December 22.
U.S. Marshals arrested Neal Mouser, 59, in Spokane Wednesday evening, December 23.
“The U.S. Marshals fugitive task force developed information Mouser moved to Washington. Deputy U.S. Marshals and Task Force Officers from various departments in North Idaho and Eastern Washington conducted surveillance near the 300 block of South Greene Street in Spokane,” District of Idaho Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Michael Leigh wrote in a press release. “The task force identified Mouser on foot and then safely executed their arrest plan.”