Murder-Suicide Shakes Wyoming Town
GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) _ Cheryl and John Trover returned home from a Friday night out with friends. John got ready for bed. Cheryl had other plans.
Mrs. Trover, a high school math teacher, wife and 37-year-old mother of two, had murder on her mind. She had plotted her moves for months, and this was the night. It was to be John’s last.
Pulling on a ski mask, she disguised her voice and bound her son and daughter with rope. She shot her husband twice, then slit his throat and stabbed him in the heart with his own hunting knife.
Mrs. Trover later told police how she had fled from a dark-skinned intruder, how she had run naked and terrified into the cold night.
But Cheryl Trover’s plans had gone wrong. She’d be dead herself within 48 hours, unable to live with the mistakes she had made.
Police quickly found the murder weapon in the house across the street, the house that held the secrets she had tried to protect. It was the house of Cheryl Trover’s principal _ and her lover for the past four years.
``It’s as close to a murder mystery and probably better written than any I’ve read in a long time,″ said Sgt. Steve Rozier, the lead investigator in the case.
``Not that it’s a good thing, but it certainly had a lot of twists and turns.″
Gillette is a coal mining town of about 17,000 people, defiant in its isolation on the barren, rolling prairie where antelope roam free.
It depends on ranching and rich, low-sulfur coal deposits. Vast trains export the product of immense open-pit mines such as Eagle B, where Trover, 43, worked as an accountant.
Gillette has seen steady growth along with Wyoming’s coal industry over the past 25 years, drawing blue-collar residents of eastern states whose coal industries have lagged.
The Trovers seemed so happy. There seemed to be no trouble _ not in the 14 years they were married, not even when they socialized at a neighborhood sports bar on Dec. 4, the night Trover was killed.
Leslie Flocchini knew the Trovers for 11 years. Less than two weeks before the murder, she saw them at a junior high girls basketball game.
``Cheri and John sat right beside us and we talked the entire time and made jokes and laughed. And I can still remember John rubbing Cheri’s shoulder,″ Flocchini said.
``They were very affectionate to one another in public,″ she said.
Like her children, Mrs. Trover was athletic. Lean and muscular with long, dark hair, she lifted weights religiously at a stylish, warehouse-sized gym where she and her husband often played racquetball.
Speakers at a memorial service on Thursday described her as a favorite of many students at Campbell County High School.
John Trover’s co-workers remembered a kind, family-loving man who could take a joke.
``John wasn’t much of a hunter, and we talked him into shooting sporting clays one time,″ co-worker Murphy Love said. ``He shot four out of 100.″
Police had a theory within hours. They heard whispers that Mrs. Trover was involved with principal John Riley.
The Trovers had a key to Riley’s house. Riley, who was divorced, often had Christmas dinner with the Trovers, either at his house or theirs.
Police believe Mrs. Trover feared a divorce would cost her custody of Torrey, 13, and Jackson, 11. Trover had gained custody of his daughter Brooklin, 18, when he divorced his first wife.
Riley admitted to the affair and resigned his job on Tuesday. He apparently was unaware of her scheme, police said.
The plot began up to six months ago, when Mrs. Trover learned Riley would be out of town the weekend of Dec. 4.
In recent weeks, Eagle Butte Mine officials had received vague threats from a caller with a low, possibly female voice. Layoffs were rumored at the mine, where Trover was an accountant.
``We believe that Cheri Trover made some phone calls that someone from the coal company might end up paying for the layoffs in some way,″ Rozier said.
Mrs. Trover also told neighbors she had seen a man wearing coveralls, cowboy boots and wire-rim glasses near their house. It was the same description she later gave of the intruder.
Police believe Mrs. Trover shot her husband in the back as he stood in his underwear.
But Cheryl was no better at handling a gun than John. She had mistakenly loaded the handgun she had taken from Riley’s house with .22-caliber rifle bullets, which misfired. John’s wounds were only superficial.
Then she found John’s 6-inch hunting knife and killed him in the kitchen. She faked signs of a struggle, dragging her husband’s 6-foot-tall body down to the basement.
She wiped the blood off the gun and returned it to Riley’s house, then drove off in the couple’s pickup.
In the southern outskirts of town, she stripped naked and set fire to her clothes, the cowboy boots and coveralls in the truck, police said.
As the truck burned, she fled into a field and hid in a drainage culvert. A passing motorist quickly put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher, preserving the evidence. She emerged when police arrived at about 5:30 a.m., and authorities launched a search for the intruder.
A sexual assault test at the hospital was inconclusive. Police noticed that cigar burns on Mrs. Trover’s back appeared to be self-inflicted. The details she offered were confusing.
Mrs. Trover went to a friend’s ranch west of town. When Riley called Sunday afternoon to tell her police had found the gun, she asked for a half hour to herself.
She went upstairs, found a rifle in a master bedroom, locked herself in an adjoining bathroom, and shot herself.
``Something happened,″ the Rev. Tom Ogg said at the memorial service for the couple. ``Most everybody who knew them said, `This is not the person we knew.‴