A 37-year-old Three Forks man is facing murder charges and his teen son is being held for tampering with evidence after the charred remains of a woman were found in a burn barrel outside their home over the weekend.
Jay J. Myran, 37, told Gallatin County detectives he shot Gayle Brewster, 53, when she put a shotgun in her mouth while he had his finger on the trigger and it went off. He is being held on $1 million bail in the Gallatin County jail.
Brewster, who had been missing since May 12, was living with Myran and his 14-year-old son in a rented trailer at 3155 Pyfer Road at the edge of Headwaters State Park, according to court documents. Myran was her ex-boyfriend. Both adults were unemployed, according to Gallatin County officials.
A county search-and-rescue team found the ashes of a human body in a burn barrel outside the trailer Saturday, according to the documents. Metal screws and a surgical plate attached to an ankle bone found in the ashes appeared to be Brewster's, based on X-rays taken when she had surgery at Bozeman Deaconess Hospital.
Bits of metal resembling shotgun lead and jewelry beads were also found in the barrel. A state medical examiner said he believed the fire had been stirred during the incineration.
When detectives questioned Myran Tuesday in Billings, he told them he had been planning to shoot rabbits with a .410-gauge shotgun on May 12. He was in their trailer when "Brewster came up to him and grabbed the shotgun barrel and placed (it) in her mouth."
According to court documents, after the shotgun went off. Myran dragged Brewster's body outside with the aid of his son and left her there overnight, he told detectives. The next day he and the boy put the body in a barrel, lit it on fire and let it burn all day, he told them.
Myran's son, Lance Myran, 14, was charged with felony tampering with evidence Wednesday and is being held in the Yellowstone County Youth Services Center, a secure facility in Billings, on $50,000 bail.
During a hearing in Gallatin District Judge John Brown's courtroom Wednesday afternoon, Lance Myran, sporting a mohawk-style haircut, appeared via video from the youth center. His mother sat beside him, holding his hand and instructing him to sit up straight. She held her other hand over her mouth and sobbed quietly as defense attorney Brandon C. Hartford asked the judge to release the boy into her care.
"We acknowledge that these are serious charges," Hartford said.
But, he added, the mother was "Johnny-on-the spot in this case" and would ensure that her son gets the mental health treatment he needs in Miles City, where she lives.
Brown denied that request, citing the seriousness of the charges, and ordered the boy remain in custody. Lance Myran will appear in court again June 18.
The landlady of the trailer, where Brewster had lived since April 2008, first reported Brewster missing after returning home from vacation. Brewster had agreed to take care of the woman's cat and take in her mail. But when the woman came home, she found that that the cat had not been fed and only one day's mail had been collected. She said she last saw Brewster on May 10.
A search warrant filed in Gallatin County District Court Wednesday afternoon also said neighbors told a detective "they remembered a very large fire" at the trailer around May 12. One neighbor, upon answering the door, asked Detective Tom Pallach, "Did they burn her up?" and "Did you find her in the pit?"
On May 27, detectives questioned Jay Myran at the trailer about his missing ex-girlfriend. At that time, he said Brewster had left town for several weeks and that "this was normal for her to do," according to court records. However, detectives found her purse and cell in her room in the trailer.
The landlady told investigators that the Myrans had moved out of the trailer May 29, but before leaving, left trash in the back of her truck, including a "spent shotgun shell, several bottles of carpet stain remover, bleach and various cleaners," charging documents said.
Myran eventually admitted to his role in Brewster's death Tuesday.
He appeared in Gallatin County Justice Court via closed-circuit television from the Gallatin County jail Wednesday morning.
His defense attorney said the incident was a "tragic accident," and stressed that the charges were merely allegations.
But County Attorney Marty Lambert argued that "the gruesome nature of this crime and the involvement of a 14-year-old in destroying the evidence" supported his request for the $1 million bond.
The judge agreed with the prosecutor.
The elder Myran's next court date has not yet been scheduled.
Jodi Hausen can be reached at email@example.com or 582-2630.