Montana Man Accused Of Torturing Lander Woman Will Face Trial In August

A Montana man accused of kidnapping and torturing a Lander woman for six weeks is scheduled for trial next month. The man faces a federal kidnapping charge punishable by up to life in prison or the death penalty.

Clair McFarland

July 12, 20234 min read

The James F. Battin Federal Courthouse in Billings, Montana.
The James F. Battin Federal Courthouse in Billings, Montana. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A Montana man accused of kidnapping and torturing a Lander woman for six hellish weeks is scheduled for trial next month.  

Montana U.S. District Court Judge Susan P. Watters on Monday scheduled Adolfo Vargas Lepe for an Aug. 28 trial in the Billings federal courthouse.  

Lepe faces a federal kidnapping charge punishable by up to life in prison or the death penalty.  

Federal prosecutors charged him in June.  

Punching Bag, Power Tools 

The charge stems from April, when Lepe allegedly commanded his ex-girlfriend to leave her mother’s Lander home with him, according to an evidentiary affidavit filed June 5.  

The woman didn’t want to go because Lepe had been treating her like a “punching bag,” the document relates, but she worried he’d kill her or take her by force if she didn’t go.  

Lepe had with him an unknown man at the time as well, the affidavit says.  

“Lepe had also made statements to (her) that he could utilize his connections with the Mexican cartel to have her and her family ‘taken care of,’” wrote FBI Special Agent Wyatt Garber in the affidavit. 

Pistol Whip 

Within a couple days of returning to Montana, Lepe allegedly started physically and mentally abusing his victim. She didn’t have a cellphone and was trapped in Lepe’s home, the affidavit alleges, adding that she wasn’t able to leave without him.  

In mid-May, Lepe allegedly pointed a black 9 mm semiautomatic handgun at the woman and threatened to shoot her.   

The affidavit claims he then smacked her on the top of the head with the bottom of the handgun grip, breaking the flesh of her skull so she bled, and hit her on the back with the gun.  

He put down the pistol.  

Bleeding On The Floor 

Then he picked up a black .22-caliber rifle and threatened to shoot the woman, the affidavit alleges.

It claims he poked her with the end of the rifle barrel and held it against her head, then fired three rounds in rapid succession. One of those rounds, the document claims, went through her right thigh, the second went through her left thigh, and the third narrowly missed her head and hit the wall.  

“Lepe became angry because she bled on the floor,” wrote Garber.   

The affidavit says the woman looked down at her thighs and saw entry and exit wounds in both legs. 

This Alleged Hell 

During the weeks in Lepe’s home, Lepe allegedly beat the woman with an electric drill and an electric grinder, whipped her legs with long USB charging cables, stuck a tuning fork-like object into her nostrils, smacked and broke her nose, blackened her eyes, stabbed her in the belly and gut with nails and screws, poked her with a metal stake, bashed her with a heavy wooden lamp, tried to gouge her eyes out with his hands, choked her, hit her with a knife and punched her while she was sleeping, according to the affidavit.   


Lepe’s daughter and son-in-law came to the home to borrow something May 29, the affidavit says.  

The woman stepped outside to where the three chatted, announcing she’d been shot and needed medical attention.  

Lepe’s daughter yelled at Lepe to take the woman to the doctor, the affidavit says, leading Lepe to become angry and throw a rock at his daughter.  

The son-in-law charged Lepe and they started fighting, the document claims.  

The woman saw her chance and ran away. She crawled under a chain-link fence and ran toward Cooney Reservoir, where she hid in the bushes for two hours until she could no longer see signs of Lepe out searching for her, the affidavit says.  

Then she walked to the Cooney Bar, where she called her mother and 911.  

Garber’s affidavit says agents reviewed the woman’s injuries, and they match up with her story.  


Lepe has until Aug. 14 to change his plea if he wants to, and until Aug. 12 to make a plea agreement.  

Both the prosecution and defense have until the end of day Wednesday to yield discovery. They have until July 29 to announce expert witnesses. All motions in limine, or requests to suppress ill-gotten evidence, are due by July 26.  

Jury instructions are due by Aug. 21.  

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter