Retaliation possible motive for slaying

FORT LARAMIE – Retaliation over the alleged theft of a truck title may have led to the death of a Guernsey man last week.

Jamie Snyder, 26, of Fort Laramie has been transferred to the Niobrara County Jail in Lusk, where he’s being held without bail on charges of first degree murder, in connection with the death of Wade Erschabek, 32, of Guernsey. Snyder was remanded to the custody of the Goshen County Sheriff’s Detention Department following his first appearance May 25 before Eighth Circuit Court Judge Randal Arp.

A preliminary hearing on the charges was scheduled for Monday before Judge Arp. That hearing was postponed following a motion by the defense, requesting Snyder undergo a psychological evaluation, said Goshen County Attorney Ken Brown, who represents the state of Wyoming in the case.

According to an Affidavit of Probable Cause filed by Goshen County Sheriff’s investigator Kory Fleenor, Snyder, 26, allegedly pursued, confronted and stabbed Erschabek, 32, on May 24 outside a residence at 502 N. Miles in Fort Laramie. According to the affidavit, unidentified person or persons had broken in to Snyder’s residence, broke into a lock box and stolen the title for a 2001 black Chevrolet Silverado pickup registered to Snyder.

In the affidavit, Fleenor states Snyder was later told it was Erschabek who stole the title, but does not identify who told him. Around 3 p.m. Thursday, according to a witness who was reportedly giving Erschabek a ride northbound on Main Street in Fort Laramie, Snyder passed them going south.

The witness stated Snyder, “immediately and aggressively turned around and started aggressively following” the vehicle Erschabek and the witness were in, according to the affidavit. Snyder allegedly followed the pair to the home of a friend on North Miles, where the witness pulled into the driveway and parked.

The witness told investigators Snyder parked closely behind the vehicle, at which time Erschabek reportedly exited the vehicle and approached Snyder’s pickup on the passenger side, where a conversation between the two ensued. The witness was quoted in the affidavit telling investigators he could not hear what was being said, but said that, while watching in the rearview mirror, “it appears Mr. Snyder was psyching himself up for a confrontation.”

The affidavit goes on to say the witness exited his vehicle, at which time he told investigators he saw Snyder get out of the pickup with a large, black knife in his hand. The witness said Snyder, “aggressively and very quickly moved around the front of the pickup and immediately stabbed Mr. Erschabek in the chest,” according to the affidavit by Fleenor.

The victim requested the witness call 9-1-1, at which time the witness told investigators Snyder pointed the knife at him, telling him “not to call the cops,” the affidavit states. The witness stated he walked toward the house and, after hearing a vehicle leave the location, entered and called 9-1-1.

Erschabek was taken by ambulance to Community Hospital in Torrington, where he died.

In a subsequent interview, the affidavit states Snyder told investigators he did stab Erschabek, but did so self-defense, claiming Erschabek had been the aggressor in the confrontation. Following the stabbing, Snyder said, he left the scene and disposed of his clothes and boots before returning to his home. He said he called his mother, who was not identified in the affidavit, who told him to “go outside … and he would be fine.” 

Snyder exited the residence and was taken into custody.

Snyder appeared before Judge Arp May 25 without an attorney, where he reiterated his claims he acted in self-defense in connection with Erschabek’s death.

“I’m innocent,” Snyder told the court. “I’m not guilty. (The witness’s) statement is false.

“It was self-defense,” he said. “If (Erschabek) would have got that knife from me, he would have killed me.”

Prosecutor Brown argued against bail for Snyder in the first appearance hearing. Brown said Snyder presented a potential flight risk, noting family ties to both South Dakota and New York State.

“We have an admission the defendant was the person who drove the knife into the chest of the victim,” Brown said. “We feel he’s certainly a danger to any community in which he’s residing.”

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