Murder Victim Remembered as Loving Father Who Fell on Hard Times

Search for body continues three weeks after Anthony Andrew Walthers was allegedly shoved off bridge

By Justin Franz
A vehicle crosses over the Flathead River on Holt Stage Road, the former Old Steel Bridge. Beacon File Photo

Three weeks after Anthony Andrew Walthers was allegedly pushed to his death along the Flathead River in Evergreen, the search for the 34-year-old man’s body continues.

Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said he is hopeful the body will be found as water levels along the Flathead River change.

Cecil Thomas Rice and Heather Joy Meeker were arrested for their alleged involvement in Walthers’ death and are scheduled to be arraigned in Flathead County District Court on May 25. Rice has been charged with deliberate homicide and Meeker has been accused of tampering with evidence.

Last week, Walthers’ family from Wyoming visited the bridge where the 34-year-old man was allegedly killed. Colleen Rupp, the victim’s sister-in-law, said Walthers had moved to the Flathead Valley last year to be closer to his two children, ages 6 and 9, but had fallen on hard times and was homeless. Rupp said Walthers had recently gotten a job and was hopeful that he would soon find housing.

“He was getting back on his feet,” Rupp said.

Rupp said Walthers loved fishing, music and football, especially the San Francisco 49ers. She said the family came to the Flathead Valley to see where Walthers had died and to “find closure.”

“He loved his family and they were everything to him,” Rupp said. “He was a loving father.”

According to court documents, law enforcement responded to Holt Stage Road shortly after 7 p.m. on April 26 after receiving a report that a man had fallen into the river. A witness said she was fishing nearby when she heard a splash and then saw a man, believed to be Walthers, in the water screaming for help. Another witness reported seeing Walthers’ head drop below the surface. Witnesses said they saw two men and a woman on the bridge when the man fell into the river. All three people left the scene in a maroon minivan.

The woman, later identified as Meeker, found a backpack in the van that she believed belonged to Walthers and reportedly threw it out the window.

The following morning, one of the men on the bridge told law enforcement that Rice had pushed Walthers off the bridge. Later, detectives spoke with Meeker, who confirmed the man’s story. Meeker said Rice was upset because Walthers had said something inappropriate about her earlier in the day at a nearby church that provides meals to the homeless.

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