Five of the Year’s Most Tragic Casino Nights in the US

  • A man died in an Arizona casino parking garage, shot by his female companion’s obsessed ex
  • An argument between a couple in a Detroit casino ended up with an interloper killing the male
  • A victim ganged-up two-on-one died in a mass brawl on a Laughlin, Nevada casino floor
  • Wisconsin tribal casino workers got in the way of a gunman who came looking for their colleague
  • A Montana resident got 65 years for decapitating a victim who had just won at a casino
gun, dice, and bullet
Casino evenings can be awesome, but for the six victims of the five casino tragedies making headlines in 2021, their nights were anything but. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

From obsessed exes to zombie killers

Going out for a night at the casino is usually an exhilarating experience. On the other hand, some casino evenings can leave us high and dry if we’re not on our game, or if Lady Luck’s gone AWOL.

This top five compilation is, however, not about losing big, but about some of the most tragic events to take place in US casinos in 2021. As tragic as getting gunned down by your girlfriend’s ex, having your head parted from your body by someone coveting your casino score, or even someone eating your brain Hannibal Lecter style.

Ultimately, the perpetrators of these crimes might one day walk free from their cells to feel the adrenalin rush of a buzzing, neon-lit gaming establishment. But for the victims of the five tragic cases coming up, it’s a different story…

Let’s get started with our list of the most shocking casino stories, working our way down to the most disturbing case of the five.

5. Man hides in truck he lent his ex to gun down her male friend

While this Arizona tale isn’t the most twisted of the five tragedies, it certainly is pretty messed up. A guy and girl broke up after a year in a relationship, and he then kept turning up at his ex’s home without an invite. He damaged her car, meaning she had to drive his pick-up truck instead, as the unnamed woman later reported to the police.

installed a tracking device in his truck

Already a bit hinky, no? It gets worse. The ex-boyfriend, Jonathan Lorenz, 37, had installed a tracking device in his truck. So when his former squeeze put pedal to the metal to get to Wild Horse Pass Casino, the man from Queen Creek, Arizona hopped in his Dodge Durango and followed her there.

Lorenz then found his loanee truck in the casino’s parking lot. He hid in his familiar truck bed for 43 minutes until his ex approached with her male companion, 52-year-old Philip Bachelder.

At around 2am on April 15, 2021, Lorenz leaped out from his truck, firing his gun and hitting Bachelder. Lorenz’s ex took to her heels and he gave chase, shooting at her several times. Luckily for the woman, Gila River police officers – who were already on the casino property for another reason altogether – heard the shots and attended the scene. According to reports, the cops and Lorenz exchanged fire to no effect, with the obsessed ex eventually getting dropped by a taser and arrested.

News channel ABC15 Arizona took to Twitter later that day to announce that Lorenz was in custody:

Officials pronounced Bachelder dead at the scene, the tragic night’s only fatality or casualty. Lorenz now faces charges for first-degree murder and aggravated assault.

4. Interfering busybody at casino kills man arguing with girlfriend

We’ve all seen this kind of scenario. A man and a woman arguing outside a club or a bar and a third party steps in, whether with good or bad intentions, and violence typically follows.

For Kermit McCants, the argument between him and his girlfriend at MotorCity Casino in Detroit, Michigan was the last fight he’d ever have with her. Local4News tweeted information on the case that saw the busybody, Nicholas White, facing first-degree murder charges for a night that ended badly for McCants:

Here’s how the tragic event unfolded in the early hours of Sunday, March 21, 2021. Detroit native McCants, 25, and his girlfriend were having a bust-up when White, 27, stuck his nose in. The beef between the two men escalated, with White whipping out a gun and shooting McCants several times before hot-footing it from the scene in his vehicle.

Despite getting rushed to a nearby hospital, doctors later declared McCants dead. Detroit police took White into custody the following day, March 22. The court denied White bond, and he now faces first-degree murder and felony firearm charges. 

Whether or not White regrets his actions that night, under Michigan law a first-degree murder conviction stipulates life in prison without the possibility of parole.

3. Mass fight on casino floor ends tragically for Good Samaritan

While coming off second best in a fair fight is hard to swallow, it’s still the accepted law of the jungle. Dying in a two-on-one battle on a casino floor is, however, mighty unfair. Especially since, as our victim’s sister-in-law alleges, the victim was trying to step in and stop the fight.

So begins the tragic tale of Alejo Jack Areyan, 44, a California man who fought alone in the wrong place – Aquarius Casino Resort in Laughlin, Nevada – at the wrong time, around 1:20am on July 30, 2021.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) took to Twitter the next day to share news of the brawl that took Areyan’s life the previous evening, and to ask the public’s help in tracking down leads:

According to the LVMPD, Areyan was fighting two men when he was “knocked unconscious.” Officers attending the scene found the victim on the casino floor in an unresponsive state. He was later pronounced dead at the Western Arizona Regional Medical Center.

For Areyan’s grieving family, the case took an even further unfair twist. While one of the suspects involved in the two-on-one remains at large, police arrested the other male, David Cruz, 45, on August 26 on one count of open murder.

Controversially, a court granted Cruz, the only individual arrested in connection with the Laughlin casino fight, bail on September 14. The Mohave Daily News reported Rosemary Flores, Areyan’s sister-in-law, as saying “The DA (Clark County Chief Deputy District Attorney Bishop Pesci) asked for bail to be denied […] But the judge granted bail.”

he stepped in and went to help him get up … And they just beat him.”

Flores dubbed it “irrational” and “unethical” to allow a violent murder suspect to be released while awaiting trial. To make matters worse, she believes her brother-in-law was actually trying to help someone else in the fight. Referring to a video recording of events that ended the night so tragically, she observed: “Someone else was on the ground; he stepped in and went to help him get up … And they just beat him.”

2. Ex-manager stalking absent casino worker shoots two dead

Similar to our Good Samaritan case, tragedy number two is one of those stories that makes victims’ families question the notion of a just universe. In this entry, we examine the sheer bad luck that befell not one, but two men who pitched up for work at a tribal casino resort in Wisconsin on May 1, 2021 and never returned home.

The tragedy unfolded after a shooting at the Duck Creek Kitchen and Bar restaurant inside the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center, which is attached to the Oneida Casino in Ashwaubenon, Green Bay. Police received a call about the active shooter situation at approximately 7:28pm. They got to the scene quickly and shot and killed the gunman, Bruce Pofahl, 62, who used to be a manager at the restaurant. 

But before he died, Pofahl had already claimed the lives of Duck Creek restaurant workers Ian Simpson, 32, and Jacob Bartel, 35.

The sad irony is that the killer came looking for someone else, a female employee. Brown County Sheriff Lieutenant Kevin Pawlak said the gunman “was targeting a specific victim who was not there, but he decided to still shoot some of the victim’s friends or co-workers, it appears.”

The Oneida Nation-operated casino property took to Twitter to share an update on the aftermath of the incident:

In August 2021, the Green Bay Press Gazette reported that the three police officers who shot Pofahl were exonerated for their actions. The Gazette also cited a letter by Brown County District Attorney David Lasee, released alongside hundreds of pages of investigative reports on the incident. The letter describes Pofahl’s behavior after the restaurant terminated his employment as “consistent with stalking or harassing former coworkers.”

Court documents revealed that Pofahl sent the female employee threatening emails and text messages such as “times up [sic]” along with images of her home, in addition to making threats against her family.

This double killing of two innocent victims is, in our book, one of the most unfortunate and random tragedies of 2021.

1. Killers with zombie fantasies rob, decapitate casino winner

We come to our number one casino tragedy hitting the headlines in 2021: the sentencing of two men behind one of the most gruesome and monstrous tragedies to befall a casino goer. In February 2021, a court sentenced Jeffery Glen Haverty, 35, to 70 years in the Montana State Prison with 20 years suspended for deliberate homicide in the death of Myron Wesley Knight. The other suspect, Donald Ray Cherry, was sentenced on June 11, 2021 to 65 years in prison.

The case dates back to the night of October 26, 2017. As witnessed by an employee at Montana’s Lil’s Casino, Myron Wesley Knight had just won $120 and asked the casino worker to keep the money for him. Knight suspected – rightfully so, it would turn out – that two men he met at the casino that night, Cherry and Haverty, had plans to rob him.

Later that night at a transient campsite near Lil’s Casino, Haverty and Cherry took turns to decapitate the victim, according to the charges as reported by the Billings Gazette.

eating the victim’s brains post-mortem

Knight’s body was found approximately 30 feet away from his severed head, which was wrapped in a towel and hidden under leaves. The Associated Press reported that Cherry allegedly made comments to his girlfriend and to Haverty about eating the victim’s brains post-mortem. The girlfriend allegedly told investigators that Cherry was also interested in zombies.

At his sentencing, an impassive Cherry doodled on a pad and made no attempt to express his remorse to the deceased’s family. The Gazette uploaded a video of the sentencing via YouTube:

At Cherry’s trial Knight’s cousin Madeline Grey Mountain told the killer directly:

The devil is in you and there may be no saving your soul.”

The judge criticized Cherry for his lack of remorse, before handing down a 65-year prison term with a recommendation for incarceration at Montana State Prison, Deer Lodge. Ultimately, for the loved ones Knight left behind, his senseless and horrific death will likely forever haunt them. As tragedies go, they don’t get more heartbreaking than this.