crimesider

Teens plead guilty in triple slaying in Wyoming, get life in prison

Stephen Hammer (left) and Tanner Vanpelt who was arrested for fatally killing three members of a family in a home in the tiny northwestern Wyoming town of Clark AP Photo/Park County Sheriff's Office

Stephen Hammer (left) and Tanner Vanpelt
AP Photo/Park County Sheriff's Office
(CBS/AP) CODY, Wyo. - Two teenage boys who gunned down three members of a family at a rural home in northern Wyoming early this year will serve life in prison without the possibility of parole, a district judge ordered Tuesday.

Tanner B. Vanpelt and Stephen F. Hammer, both 19 and both from Cody, cried in court as they apologized for the killings.

Vanpelt and Hammer pleaded guilty to killing Ildiko Freitas, 40, and her parents, 70-year-old Janos Volgyesi and 69-year-old HIldegard Volgyesi.

Authorities said the teens killed the three at the Volgyesi home in the small community of Clark, just south of the Montana line in northwestern Wyoming, on March 2. The teens had stolen guns from a Cody pawn shop in the days before the killing, authorities have said, and came to the house to take Frietas' Audi A4 so they could flee the area.

Freitas knew Hammer from when his family had lived in the Clark area previously and had invited the pair into her home that morning.

Vanpelt shot Freitas, officials say. Hammer then drew a gun and shot Hildegard Volgyesi in the basement. Vanpelt then shot Janos Volgyesi in the garage.

Hammer and Vanpelt each pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder at Tuesday's hearing. The Powell Tribune reported that Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric agreed to seek life sentences instead of the death penalty, with the agreement of law enforcement and Freitas' family.

Freitas' husband, John Freitas, and her younger brother, Thomas Volgyesi, each spoke at the sentencing hearing.

"They meant the world to me and your senseless act has ruined my life forever," Thomas Volgyesi said.

While saying the teens deserved the death penalty, Thomas Volgyesi said it would not bring him any closure. He said he supported a life sentence.

John Freitas said the killings sentenced him to a lifetime of nightmares. "There's nothing left," he said.

Vanpelt said there was no explanation for what he did. "But the only thing that I know is that I have to live with it every day," he said, adding he wished he could take it back.

Hammer also said his actions couldn't be justified. "I can't even fathom what I've put you and everybody through," he said, looking toward the family. "I wish more than anything I could take back what I've done."

Defense attorneys said they couldn't explain their clients' actions, but said the violence was out of character.

District Court Judge Steven Cranfill accepted the guilty pleas. He said he couldn't bring back the victims, provide answers or erase what the community had experienced. However, he said he could accept the agreement supported by the victims' family and sentence Vanpelt and Hammer to life in prison.

Vanpelt received three consecutive sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Hammer received one sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole and two additional life sentences.

Judge Cranfill gave both Hammer and Vanpelt the same final words: "May God have mercy on your soul."

Complete coverage of Stephen Hammer and Tanner Vanpelt on Crimesider

  • Crimesider Staff

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.