HELENA, Mont. – Police are trying to piece together what led a dog trainer to shoot and kill a state trooper along a roadside in southwestern Montana, prompting a manhunt that ended with the suspect found dead in his truck.
That's only the first of several unanswered questions surrounding the killing of Montana Highway Patrol officer David DeLaittre, 23, who was found dead of a gunshot wound in his vehicle on Wednesday afternoon.
Police later found the shooter, Errol Brent Bouldin, 56, dead in his 1999 green Ford F250 pickup truck in Broadwater County south of Townsend, which is about 35 miles north of Three Forks.
Still unknown is what led to the encounter between Bouldin and DeLaittre off Montana Highway 2 just outside of Three Forks, where the Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison rivers converge to form the Missouri River.
Gallatin County Sheriff James Cashell said police also don't know yet how Bouldin died, whether he took his own life and what weapon or weapons were used to kill DeLaittre and himself.
Cashell said more information would be released at a 2 p.m. press conference on Thursday.
Bouldin's ex-wife, Debra Bouldin of Camp Verde, Ariz., told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he was a dog trainer and that she had not spoken to him since he left Arizona in January 2006.
The year before, he nearly died from a rattlesnake bite. Debra Bouldin said that experience left him a changed man.
"You know how when people have trauma they either become so thankful about everything about life or else they become bitter against life? Brent went to the bitter side," she said. "That was a very life-changing thing for him. What happened after that, I honestly can't tell you.
She said her prayers were with the trooper's family.
More than 100 federal, state and local law enforcement officers from across southwestern Montana responded to the shooting and authorities closed Highway 2 from the junction of U.S. Highway 287 to Interstate 90 at Three Forks, about 70 miles southeast of Helena.
The Gallatin County Sheriff's Office said Bouldin lived in Three Forks. Public records show he previously lived in Belgrade, a town about 20 miles away.
Belgrade police Sgt. David Keen said a warrant for Bouldin's arrest was issued on Dec. 3, 2009, on a contempt charge, meaning Bouldin either failed to appear in court or did not comply with a court order. Keen said he did not know why the contempt warrant was issued.
DeLaittre was sworn in as a trooper in November 2008. He initially was stationed in Chinook and then transferred to Bozeman in April 2010, Department of Justice spokeswoman Judy Beck said.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported that DeLaittre was from Three Forks, where his parents and two sisters live.
Seven other Montana Highway Patrol officers have died in the line of duty, two by shooting, according to the Association of Montana Troopers.