DOWNEY — A man who failed to report the death of his roommate and sold that roommate’s tractor is facing felony charges two years later.
Joshua Jay Bluemel, 38, has been charged with felonies for failure to report a death and destruction of evidence in connection to the March 20, 2020 death of his then-roommate, according to court records.
March 25, 2020
Investigation into Bluemel by the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office began after deputies were dispatched to a home owned by Richard Wiggill just before 9 p.m. on March 25, 2020. A caller reported they had loaned a .22 caliber handgun to Wiggill days prior and were unable to reach him, an affidavit of probable cause says.
When deputies arrived at the home, neighbors and friends were gathered in the front yard. They said that after they were unable to get in touch with Wiggill, they entered the home and found him dead in his upstairs bedroom. It was apparent he had been dead for at least several days.
During a search of the home, deputies did not find any signs of a struggle, police reports show. In interviews with the witnesses, deputies were informed of Bluemel — Wiggill’s roommate.
Witnesses told deputies that Bluemel had a history of taking advantage of Wiggill.
Deputies, who were aware of an active warrant against Bluemel for forgery, were told he had been at the home that morning at 3 a.m. A neighbor said Bluemel had started a tractor belonging to Wiggill and the tractor was now gone.
Eventually, Bluemel was located and arrested on an outstanding warrant. During an interview, Bluemel said he had moved out of the house on March 20 following a disagreement or altercation with Wiggill. He said he no longer felt comfortable being there, left the home and no longer had keys to get back in. But he said he returned every night to sleep in a vehicle in the driveway as he had nowhere else to stay.
He also told officers that Wiggill had been sick and was sent home from work.
Deputies asked Bluemel if he knew what happened to the tractor. He said a company out of Preston had picked it up for maintenance, but could not explain why that would occur at 3 a.m.
Bluemel was also asked about the handgun, which had not been located, and Wiggill’s cell phone which was also missing. He said he did not know where they were and that he would assume they would be in Wiggill’s bedroom.
March 26, 2020
In an attempt to verify Bluemel’s account of the tractor, deputies from Bannock County contacted the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. Franklin deputies then spoke with representatives from both tractor companies in Preston, neither of which had any record of receiving a tractor matching the description provided.
One of the representatives who spoke with the deputy in Preston put an approximate valuation of $3,000 on the tractor, the affidavit says.
March 27, 2020
Family members of the deceased spoke with deputies and informed them that Wiggill received $800 per month from a trust and that they knew Bluemel would take advantage of Wiggill for that money, according to police reports.
Financial records showed a credit card in Wiggill’s name was normally used for about $100 per month, they said, until Bluemel moved in with Wiggill. They claimed that Bluemel maxed the card out at its limit of $2,500.
Wiggill had also spoken with his family about naming Bluemel the benefactor of his trust and signing over his home to Bluemel.
As far as they knew, however, Wiggill had never completed that paperwork.
April 1, 2020
Following a tip from a friend of Wiggill’s, deputies located the missing tractor.
A man who had been trying to buy it from Wiggill for some time had traded for it. He said that Bluemel had contacted him and said that Wiggill had given Bluemel permission to sell it.
The man said Bluemel traded it for $300 and a dirt bike.
The man also added that as far he knew, Bluemel had already sold the dirt bike. He said that he knew both Bluemel and Wiggill to use methamphetamine, adding that Bluemel often made similar trades in an attempt to get drugs.
Deputies seized the tractor.
Deputies once again asked Bluemel about the tractor. This time, he admitted to trading it, and said he had spent the money and sold the dirt bike to a man in Wyoming.
He also said again that he did not know the whereabouts of the handgun and cell phone.
Deputies also spoke with the wife of the man who had lent the handgun to Wiggill. She said she had received a text from Wiggill on March 23, after he was believed to have died. The woman told deputies that a response she received included a misspelled word, which was weird as she said Wiggill never spelled words incorrectly.
That same day results from a toxicology report were returned to detectives. While narcotics were found in Wiggill’s system, it was determined no foul play was involved in his death.
According to the affidavit, however, detectives believed Bluemel knew Wiggill had died and was using his death for personal gain.
Feb. 2, 2022
Detectives once again interviewed Bluemel, who was in Bannock County Jail for an unrelated probation violation.
This time, Bluemel admitted to finding Wiggill deceased the morning of March 20, 2020, the morning after their alleged disagreement.
Bluemel allegedly told detectives that upon finding Wiggill’s dead body “I panicked, I freaked.” He said he didn’t know what to do, so he sold Wiggill’s tractor.
Bluemel said the plan was to get someone else to find Wiggill’s body and report it. He said that he knew he had a warrant and did not want to be arrested for reporting a death, the affidavit says.
However, later in the interview, Bluemel told deputies that at least one of the men there who came to pick up the tractor wanted to speak with Wiggill and Bluemel told him he could not come in. Bluemel then locked the doors, he allegedly told deputies.
Asked to recount the timeline of the night before Wiggill’s death, Bluemel was allegedly sure about smoking meth with Wiggill around 9 p.m., then finding him dead at 8 a.m. But, the affidavit says, he was uncertain about the rest of the night.
According to the report, questioning about their disagreement lasted around two hours, as the story continued to change.
Bluemel went so far as to say at one point that he had been lying and that an altercation had never taken place at all. He then retracted by saying, that was a lie and that it all happened.
In one of the tellings of the incident, Bluemel allegedly told deputies that the two men did have a brief altercation, but that he heard Wiggill moving around in his bedroom after the altercation.
In that retelling of the incident, Bluemel said the altercation occurred around 4 a.m., about four hours before Bluemel found Wiggill dead.
Bluemel also admitted to using Wiggill’s phone after his death, then breaking it and throwing it away. A search warrant on a messaging service also revealed that numerous messages had been erased right before Bluemel turned his phone over to detectives per a search warrant.
Neither Wiggill’s cell phone nor pistol have been located, according to the affidavit.
Bluemel ended the interview when he requested an attorney.
Felony charges of failing to report a death and destruction of evidence were filed on Feb. 20. If he is found guilty of both crimes, Bluemel would face up to 15 years in prison and $60,000 in fines.
Bluemel waived his preliminary hearing and will be bound over to district court.