A lack of evidence to prove who committed the brutal and allegedly unprovoked Dec. 7 assault on Russ Talmo in downtown Missoula is prompting the victim's family to ask additional witnesses to come forward to help identify the perpetrators.
"The case isn't really going anywhere," says Talmo's mother, Linda Fritz. "(The Missoula Police Department) never really did have enough evidence to get these guys."
On Dec. 7, Talmo left a friend's graduation celebration at Charlie B's with three other partygoers and proceeded to walk south on Higgins Avenue toward their homes. Two of the people who left the bar with Talmo that night, including Liz Fairbank and Erik Thompson, told the Independent last month that the attack, which they believe constituted one blow that rendered Talmo immediately unconscious, seemed to come out of nowhere. "It was unprovoked," Fairbank said.
Talmo, 35, fell to the sidewalk, where he again hit his head. He was hospitalized with bleeding and swelling on the brain, multiple hairline skull fractures and a fractured orbital socket. He also lost a tooth. Doctors used staples to close a gash in the back of the head.
Fritz says that she's asking additional witnesses to come forward to law enforcement because her son doesn't remember the assault and bystanders, including Fairbank, didn't actually see the blow land, making it tough to identify exactly who is responsible for sending Talmo tumbling to the ground.
In response to Fritz's concerns, Sgt. Ed McLean says that the investigation is ongoing and that law enforcement interviewed two suspects last week. He acknowledges, however, that having multiple parties of interest can complicate fact finding. "You like to have a relatively consistent set of statements to give to the prosecutors," he says. "I can see how that would be frustrating for the victim."
Despite Fritz's frustration, she sees at least one positive outcome from the incident. Talmo's friends, many of whom expressed outrage after the assault, mobilized in the days that followed and helped raise more than $22,000 for his medical expenses. "It's pretty awesome," Fritz says. She adds that Talmo appears slated for a full recovery.