The Coldest Case in Laramie

Research output: Other contribution


In 1985, when Kim Barker, a Times reporter, was a teenager living in Laramie, Wyo., a young woman named Shelli Wiley was murdered.

The killing stuck with Kim long after she left Laramie, long after she traveled the world as a reporter. Part of it was the brutality of the murder. It was an emblem of her time in Laramie, a town that stood out as the meanest place she’d ever lived in. The other part was the mystery: Though the police made two arrests early in the case, neither stuck. The case went cold.

It wasn’t until 2021 that Kim learned there had been a development in the case — and a strange one. Five years earlier, the Laramie police had arrested someone for Ms. Wiley’s murder. He was one of their own, a former Laramie police officer. The evidence against him seemed overwhelming: Witnesses placed him at the crime scene, and his DNA was found there, too. In an interrogation before his arrest, he seemed to all but confess to the crime.

But just a few months later, the prosecutors in Laramie dropped the charges. They said the move was procedural, only a temporary delay. But they still haven’t refiled the charges, and it’s never been clear why.

How did a case that seemed this open-and-shut fall apart with such a whimper? To find answers, Kim heads back to Laramie and grapples with conflicting memories and dueling narratives.
Original languageEnglish
TypeArtwork to accompany New York Times Podcast
Media of outputPodcast
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2023


  • Illustration
  • Real life Crime


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