Montana inmate confesses to 1968 slaying, dismemberment

Dec 3, 2021, 5:10 PM | Updated: 5:17 pm

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana prison inmate serving a 100-year sentence for killing his wife in 1983 has confessed to strangling, sexually assaulting and dismembering a 19-year-old Helena woman 15 years earlier, authorities said Friday.

Courtney Brooke Atlas, 79, confessed to killing Pamela Ann Dorrington, who disappeared in 1968. Part of her torso was found near the boat dock at Gates of the Mountains Marina on Holter Lake four months later.

Atlas, who was 26 at the time, was Dorrington’s landlord. He had always been a suspect, officials said, but there was no forensic evidence tying him to the crime.

Atlas confessed on Wednesday, in detail, after being given immunity from prosecution for the crimes, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said. Dorrington’s family was consulted before the immunity offer was made.

Atlas said he called Dorrington on the morning of Feb. 17, 1968, and said there was a water leak in her apartment. He went into her apartment, strangled her to death and sexually assaulted her, Detective Jess Metcalf said.

Atlas reported he put her body in a barrel, put it in his car and drove to a hangar where he taught flying lessons. After teaching his lessons, he said he drove the barrel out to the Lakeside area on Hauser Lake, where he used a knife and hatchet to dismember her body before putting her remains back in the barrel.

He left the barrel in the area while he went to meeting and then returned later that night, disposing of her body by throwing the barrel off the York Bridge into the Missouri River northeast of Helena.

Atlas said he believed the barrel broke open when it hit a bridge support, Metcalf said.

“This was cold, this was calculated, and we’re not giving all the details of this gruesome homicide,” Dutton said. “It is difficult hearing what was done. He fantasized about her and acted upon it.”

Atlas told investigators he “found God,” in prison, Dutton said, and “he wanted to clear that off his conscience.”

Atlas is in prison after being convicted of deliberate homicide and arson in the death of his wife, Donna, in a July 1983 house fire north of Helena.

He had filed for bankruptcy in early 1983 and was the beneficiary of homeowners’ insurance and his wife’s life insurance, which totaled $250,000, according to Montana Supreme Court records.

During his trial, experts testified that Donna Atlas was dead before the fire started, likely due to strangulation, and that an accelerant may have been poured on her body, court records said.

Atlas had denied killing his wife, even appealing his conviction, but admitted to it during his confession at the Crossroads Correctional Center in Shelby, Detective James Ward said.

“He never went into detail about it, but he took responsibility for that,” Ward said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Brandon Calloway, second from left, speaks with a reporter alongside his family about his vi...
Associated Press

Tennessee officers won’t face charges for violent arrest

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A grand jury has declined to indict police officers after an investigation by Tennessee’s police agency into the violent arrest of a Black man for alleged traffic violations, a district attorney said Wednesday. Members of a grand jury in Fayette County reviewed evidence Monday related to the July arrest of Brandon […]
14 hours ago
FILE - A law enforcement officer walks outside of 1201 San Jacinto in Houston, following a shooting...
Associated Press

Man seen at Takeoff’s fatal shooting facing weapons charge

HOUSTON (AP) — A man who has been accused of illegally having a gun at the time that rapper Takeoff was fatally shot last month following a private party at a downtown Houston bowling alley has been charged in connection with the case, authorities said Wednesday. But during a court hearing, prosecutors said the suspect, […]
14 hours ago
FILE - Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke is shown before an NFL football game between the Arizona...
Associated Press

Deal finalized to divide Rams settlement money in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A plan to divide more than a half-billion dollars in settlement money for the departure of the NFL’s Rams from St. Louis received final approval Wednesday. The board of the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Authority, which owns the domed stadium where the Rams played before leaving for Los Angeles […]
14 hours ago
FILE - Former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens is shown before an NFL football game between the San ...
Associated Press

Terrell Owens says man he punched at CVS threatened him, fan

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Retired NFL star Terrell Owens said a fight caught on camera in which he punched a man in a CVS parking lot was the result of an “aggressor” threatening him and a fan he was talking to at the California store. Owens, 48, told The Associated Press in a statement that […]
14 hours ago
FILE - Actor Lisa Banes poses for photos in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 26, 2015. A  judge decried New...
Associated Press

Judge bemoans NYC’s bike hazard in ‘Gone Girl’ actor’s death

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge decried New York City’s problems with electric and gas-powered bikes on Wednesday as he sentenced the electric scooter rider who crashed into “Gone Girl” actor Lisa Banes to one to three years in prison for his manslaughter conviction. Brian Boyd, 27, was led away in handcuffs after sentencing in […]
14 hours ago
FILE - Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos talks to the media after Gov. Tony Evers' State of the ...
Associated Press

Jan. 6 panel to interview Wisconsin GOP Assembly speaker

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wrapping up its interviews, the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was expected to question Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Wednesday, the panel’s chairman said. Vos had filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block a subpoena demanding his testimony about a phone call with Donald […]
14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Montana inmate confesses to 1968 slaying, dismemberment