Albany County Circuit Court Judge Robert Castor determined this week that there’s probable cause to charge a 24-year-old Laramie man, Artem Day, with second-degree murder for the March 2018 death of his 22-year-old fiancée.
Day wasn’t charged for his fiancée’s death until this month after what the Laramie Police Department described as a “lengthy and intensive investigation.”
The delay in charging Day largely stems from the bizarre and convoluted circumstances of his fiancée’s death.
When Laramie police responded to the couple’s home on March 11, 2018, it initially appeared that Day’s fiancée was suffering from alcohol poisoning, as Day suggested.
However, the autopsy found no alcohol or other drugs in her bloodstream.
Instead, a medical investigator discovered wounds that suggested she had been beaten so severely that her body was inundated with fatal levels of lactic acid.
Court documents do not name the victim, opting instead to use the victim’s initials, S.R. — a practice that’s customary in cases that involve a sexual assault charge, as this case does.
The victim is originally from California, and her family largely still resides in that state.
After consulting with the victim’s mother, the Laramie Boomerang is currently opting not to publish the victim’s identity out of respect for privacy of the family, which has faced more than one tragedy in the past two years.
S.R.’s 19-year-old brother was found dead behind the wheel of a car in southern California this April.
Another man was charged with first-degree murder for her brother’s death, according to a local newspaper report.
Last March, Laramie police were dispatched to Mountain View Estates trailer park in West Laramie at about 8:23 p.m. regarding a 22-year-old woman “who had been vomiting and was not breathing,” according to a police affidavit.
When police arrived, they found S.R. “sitting on the living room floor with her back leaning against the couch.”
“It appeared she was not breathing.”
Day was holding their 9-month-old daughter and Day’s friend was outside the residence.
LPD officers performed chest compressions on S.R. until an ambulance arrived, when EMS personnel began performing life-saving measures.
“During this time, officers noted that Day possessed an unconcerned demeanor, acting nonchalant about the emergency circumstances,” according to an affidavit filed by LPD Detective Travis Fasnacht. “Officers noted that Day did not show much concern for S.R., and at one point, Day chuckled when describing S.R.’s situation.”
Day’s fiancée was transported to Ivinson Memorial Hospital.
Booze and squalor
The night of the incident, Day told police that his fiancée had quit her job about three weeks prior and had been drinking about a quarter gallon of vodka each day.
During that three week period, Day said his fiancée had been “vomiting frequently, defecating while laying down, and urinating in bed.”
As a result, he and his daughter had been sleeping in the living room and not in the bedroom with S.R., Day told police.
“Officers then observed the residence,” Fasnacht’s affidavit states. “Within the room in which S.R. had been staying, they found dirty clothes, rotten food, and urine and feces marks on the bed.”
The room also smelled of urine, vomit and feces, according to the affidavit.
Blood was found on her bedroom sheets.
Day told police that he didn’t own a car so he called a friend — identified as M.E. in court documents — to drive his fiancée to the hospital March 11.
When his friend arrived, they brought S.R. into the living room and Day said he decided to call 911 after “noticing her worsening condition.”
Much of what Day initially told police, however, was inconsistent with other evidence.
While Day told police he was the one to call 911, M.E. said he was the one that made the phone call.
Day had also told police that when he helped his fiancée to the living room before the police were called, S.R. was able to move her feet and walk. The medical examiner who performed the autopsy told Fasnacht that this would’ve been impossible, and that S.R. would have been completely unconscious for a number of hours before police were called.
The day after S.R. died, Day told police that their relationship had started to deteriorate because his fiancée wanted to move back to California and he did not.
Day also told police that, on the night his fiancée was taken to the hospital, “he had been trying to convince S.R. to move back to California, and had contacted her family and was making efforts to move her back.”
When Fasnacht contacted S.R.’s family, they said they had had no such conversations with Day.
Day also said that an ambulance had been called for his fiancée three weeks prior when she had a similar incident in which she slipped into unconsciousness. However, Fasnacht found no evidence in dispatch records of that occurring.
Day also said he and S.R. hadn’t had sex for more than two weeks prior to her death.
However, his semen was found in her vagina, which was torn and “it appeared as though the skin immediately surrounding the anus was missing.”
Day has also been charged with sexual battery.
When S.R. was brought to Ivinson, an examination revealed two bruises on her back, a bruise on her forearm, a bruise on her right shoulder, a bruise on her right thigh, two bruises on her right hip and one bruise on her tricep.
Some of the bruises “appeared linear as well, as if they were caused by impact from an object that was long and cylindrical.”
After searching the couple’s residence, police found a “breaker-bar-type tool” that matched the linear bruises on S.R.’s body.
When the Wyoming State Crime Lab analyzed that tool, they found S.R.’s DNA “along the length of the shaft.”
S.R. was ultimately life-flighted to Colorado, where she died March 12.
Fasnacht attended the autopsy, where S.R.’s body cavity was found to be “filled with blood which resulted from a lacerated liver.”
The medical examiner told Fasnacht that liver laceration can sometimes be caused by the type of life-saving measures that were performed on S.R. the night police were called.
“However, by the location of this laceration, it did not appear likely that it was the result of life-saving measures,” according to the affidavit.
Some of the blood in S.R.’s abdomen was also derived from a bruise on her hip that was “bleeding profusely.”
There was also bruising found on her pancreas and the interior of her ribcage, which meant S.R. had suffered an injury that “had been forceful and deep enough to penetrate through the exterior rib cage to the tissue of the interior of the rib cage,” the medical examiner told Fasnacht.
Her injuries suggested that she had been “violently physically assaulted.”
Day had told police that his fiancée would “fall a couple of times per day and roll off of the bed sometimes,” suggesting her drunken falls caused her injuries.
However, the medical examiner said that all the injuries appeared to have occurred at the same time, meaning it was unlikely that they were various injuries from her drunkenly falling.
The medical examiner found severely high levels of lactic acid in S.R.’s blood that were “not survivable.”
The doctor told Fasnacht that her lactic acid levels were three times higher than concentrations that can be fatal.
Her lactic acid levels meant she had “been hyper-perfusing for a large amount of time, which would have rendered her unresponsive for hours.”
While lactic acid is most commonly associated with strenuous exercise, high lactic acid levels can also result from a damaged liver or severe physical trauma.
The symptoms of extreme lactic acid levels can cause many of the symptoms S.R. showed the night before she died — the ones Day suggested resulted from alcohol — like labored breathing and vomiting.
The defendant is set to be arraigned in Albany County’s district court Aug. 22.
Day is a Russian native who was thrown into an orphanage at age 6, according to Our Town Casper, a magazine that profiled Day in 2012.
Day was adopted in 2006 by a Casper couple, Robert and Brandi Day, and attended Natrona County High School.
Robert Day is a physician, and in 2014, the couple sold their possessions and moved their family — sans Artem — to Zambia to open a medical clinic, according to the Casper Star Tribune.
The couple has also served as Christian missionaries in the sub-Saharan African country.
The second-degree murder charges Artem Day is now facing is the second interaction he’s had with the Albany County’s district court this year.
In January, he filed a petition to legally change his name to Artem Johnson, saying he no longer associates with his adoptive parents. The name change was not finalized.
If Day is convicted of murdering his fiancée, he would face 20 years to life in prison. If his case goes to trial, he could also be acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter, for which he would face no more than 20 years imprisonment.