Lovell police say Carol J. Barnes, 49, of Cowley, was murdered on Thursday afternoon or evening.
Police were initially asked to check on Barnes’ welfare by a concerned family member, being directed to an apartment on West 7th Street, Lovell Police Chief Dan Laffin said in a Friday news release.
“Upon arrival, officers identified a possible crime scene and gained entry into an apartment to check on the occupant,” Laffin wrote, saying officers then found Barnes’ body.
Laffin’s release indicates that authorities immediately suspected Donald Joe “D.J.” Crouse and began searching for him.
“The suspect, 48-year-old Donald Joe Crouse was located in Mills, Wyoming, and is currently in custody,” Laffin said. “Mills police officers took Crouse into custody without incident.”
The chief said that Crouse is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder. The release does not say how or why Crouse became a suspect or what evidence authorities have against him.
Crouse and Barnes married in Casper in May 2014. They separated in February 2016 and she filed for divorce, according to Natrona County District Court records.
Barnes’ attorney said in a November 2016 filing that, if the case had gone to a trial, he planned to call two witnesses who would testify that Crouse had been “abusive and controlling” toward Barnes, including “her having to call law enforcement for assistance due to [Crouse’s] threatening conduct.”
In a hand-written filing of his own, Crouse alleged that Barnes had “abandoned” him, describing her as his wife and caretaker and suggesting they “try to work out our relationship.”
The case ended with Barnes being granted a divorce on Dec. 21, 2016, with both parties agreeing to a plan that split up their possessions, court records say.
Lovell Police Chief Laffin said his department has been working closely with the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office, the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation as well as the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office and the Mills Police Department on the murder investigation.
“The combined efforts of the law enforcement agencies resulted in the swift apprehension of the suspect,” he said, adding, “Our thoughts, prayers and sympathy are extended to the victim’s family and loved ones.”