Montana State president to respond to murder crisis

BILLINGS, Mont. -- Montana State University President Geoff Gamble will address the arrests of two former MSU athletes on murder charges, and the school's plans to review sports recruiting and other practices, in a letter to students, parents and faculty.

"We understand parents will have questions, students will have questions: 'What kind of environment is this?' " university spokeswoman Cathy Conover said Saturday, noting the letter also will go to alumni and staff. "We want to be as open as possible and as accessible as possible."

Along with Gamble's letter, student-athletes will receive a cover letter from athletic director Peter Fields, Conover said, noting the importance of Fields' having direct communication with players. The letters are likely to be out by midweek, she said.

This comes just over a week after the body of Jason Wright was discovered at a university agronomy farm on the outskirts of Bozeman. Branden Miller, a former basketball player, and John LeBrum, a former redshirt football player, have been charged with murder in the shooting death of Wright, suspected of dealing in cocaine.

The Gallatin County attorney has declined to discuss the relationship that Miller, LeBrum and Wright may have had. The attorney has said the investigation is ongoing and additional charges were possible. Both Miller and LeBrum were held on $1 million bail.

Although neither was currently enrolled, the case reflects on the school, Gamble said Friday.

Along with recruiting practices, concerns about drug use and campus security are among issues to be examined as part of the review, the school said.

Earlier this year, eight MSU students were charged in a campus drug ring.

In the Wright case, court records show a former MSU assistant basketball coach told investigators he knew Miller had been in possession of bags with handguns and Wright's ID card, and showed investigators an MSU field house locker containing guns.

"We want this to be a broad review," Conover said of the university's work. "It's not that we know there's a problem, but to see if there is a problem." If a problem is found, then officials want to address it, she said.

The review is to include an outside third party, as well as campus leaders.

Conover said she hoped the murder case would not affect whether students decide to enroll at Montana State.

The school will keep students, alumni and others updated via MSU's Web site, she said. Letters sent to parents will go to those on a university e-mail list, she said. Conover did not immediately know how many names are on it.