Murder in the Wicked West is highlighting the crimes of Michael John Braae, a former country singer and a suspected killer known as “Cowboy Mike.”
Braae got his nickname from frequently wearing cowboy hats and boots. He was also known to serenade women with his guitar at bars, which is where he met 44-year-old Lori Jones.
In July 2001, Jones and Braae were at Bailey’s Lounge in Olympia, Washington, drinking their Canadian whiskey: Crown Royal on the rocks and Yukon Jack with a shot of lime.
The bartender told police officials that it looked as if they knew each other because they danced together the entire night, which was the last time Jones was seen alive.
On July 8, Jones’ daughter returned to their home at the Summer Ridge Apartments and couldn’t get in contact with her mother, and she couldn’t get inside the apartment.
After the manager let her inside, they found Jones’ naked body under her bed with a pillowcase over her head.
An autopsy revealed that she had been raped and strangled to death.
DNA evidence linked Cowboy Mike to Lori Jones’ murder
Less than two weeks after Jones was murdered, police arrested Braae following a high-speed car chase. During this time, he fired multiple shots at officers.
Police threw spike stripes over the road, but he kept driving until an officer shot his front tire.
Braae came to a stop on the bridge over the Snake River. He then jumped 40 feet into the river to avoid arrest, but with help from a police dog, they got him out of the water.
He was booked into the Malheur County Jail in Vale to face rape and first-degree murder charges.
Two years prior, police arrested Braae for the attempted murder of Marchelle Morgan in Yakima, Washington.
Morgan was shot in the head, which resulted in a brain injury. And because of her injury, she could not testify in court, which led to the case ending in a mistrial.
Braae told investigators he didn’t kill Jones, but his DNA was found on her body, and his fingerprints were found in her apartment.
Following a three-week trial in May 2008, a jury deliberated for two and a half hours at the Thurston County Superior Court before finding Braae guilty.
Two months later, a judge sentenced Braae to nearly 48 years in prison.
Police believe Cowboy Mike is linked to other crimes
Law enforcement officers said Braae could be responsible for other murders as well as the crimes against Karen Peterson, whom he met at Suzie’s Saloon in Yamika—hours after Morgan’s death.
Peterson and Braae went back to her home. She said she remembered having hands around her neck and being struck on the head before she lost consciousness.
When she woke up the next morning, she was half-naked with a baby blanket over her head. It was reported that she was strangled and sexually assaulted.
Detectives are still investigating his crimes.
Murder in the Wicked West airs Mondays at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.