Posted on: December 7, 2022, 04:04h. 

Last updated on: December 7, 2022, 04:23h.

Last April’s discovery of two dead bodies at an inflamed Honest Tom’s Saloon & Casino in Bridger, Mont., is now being described as a murder. The suspect then apparently took his own life.

The burned exterior of Honest Toms Saloon & Casino
The burned exterior of Honest Tom’s Saloon & Casino, pictured above. The incident is now being called a murder and likely suicide. (Image: Billings Gazette)

Montana officials announced this week that a man who worked there part-time fatally struck a female employee over the head repeatedly with a red prybar. He then likely killed himself.

MTN News, a Montana news site, said Carbon County authorities determined John Ahles, 33, murdered Marla Murray, 71, with “chop-type” wounds. He then set a fire.

Rather than leave the small casino, he remained and was overtaken by smoke inhalation.

Suspect Took Meth

Later, a review of Ahles’s cell phone content showed he was apparently considering suicide. Toxicology tests also revealed Ahles had taken THC, methamphetamine (meth) and amphetamines prior to his passing. No reason was given for murdering Murray.

News of the finding was included in a letter from Carbon County Attorney Alex Nixon to Carbon County Sheriff Josh McQuillan.

Officially, Nixon did not conclude Ahles committed suicide, but presented the available evidence and then stopped the investigation.

The fire was likely set.

The … gas line to the furnace had been intentionally damaged, causing natural gas to leak into the building. The gas was most likely intentionally ignited, causing the fire,” the prosecutor’s report revealed, according to the Billings Gazette, a local newspaper.

Ahles Snuck Into Casino

The incident began when Murray showed up at the casino at 7:45 am on April 20. She soon was playing one of the casino games.

Ahles arrived at the casino a short time later. He soon snuck into the building and began watching video from a surveillance camera. He had a pry bar in his hands.

At about 9:30 am, a delivery worker discovered the casino afire. He tried to enter the casino, but the smoke was too strong. Local officials were alerted.

The first to arrive was Bridger Police Chief Mike Buechler. He found smoke billowing out of the front door, KTVQ, a local TV station, reported.

He yelled out to see if anyone was inside, but no one answered. He was able to open a screen door. He could only see a couple of feet inside because of the smoke.

Firefighters soon arrived. The heavy smoke made it challenging for them to fight the blaze and a rear door was locked from the inside. Eventually, they forced it open.

Later, a search revealed Murray was dead. She was in a kitchen with head wounds. Ahles’s lifeless body was located near restrooms. Blood was on his clothes. Later, DNA tests showed it was Murray’s blood.

Initially, McQuillan said the fire was not believed to have been set, KTVQ said. But further investigation led officials to change their minds and begin a homicide inquiry.

The two victims were alone in the building during the fire. Both resided in Bridger.

Ahles worked part-time at the casino doing IT, but was not scheduled to work the day of the fire.

Since the blaze, Honest Tom’s was closed by its owners. The small building was described by McQuillan as a “total loss” because of smoke damage, the Associated Press reported.

The casino was located on the main thoroughfare through the southern Montana town. Bridger is a small community located about 47 miles south of Billings.