Murder suspect William Stanback was not just passing through Lincoln County when he allegedly dumped a murder victim in a pond on the southeast corner of North Platte.

He’d been in the nearby area before. He even tried to move into a home in Gothenburg, without being invited.

Stanback was cited for trespassing in a home in Gothenburg on Saturday, Feb. 28 — two and a half weeks before North Platte police charged him with first-degree murder.

A Gothenburg resident said he found Stanback casually washing his hand in his bathroom in his home around 8 p.m. that night.

Police said the location was the 1900 block of Ave. C.

The resident told the Bulletin that he was in his basement when he heard a noise above him. He went upstairs to check it out and found Stanback washing his hands in the bathroom.

The man said he was surprised if not shocked. However, Stanback did not seem threatening. The man asked him to leave, and Stanback did so peacefully.

Stanback was reportedly carrying two sacks of groceries with him, and took them when he left.

The resident said Stanback also walked into other homes that night in Gotheburg, and was eventually arrested and taken to the Dawson County jail.

An investigator’s report filed in Dawson County Court tells a somewhat different story. That report says a neighbor saw a black man wearing a dark hoodie go into a house, and called the person who lives at the house.  Stanback reportedly told the resident that he must have the wrong house, and left.

Police say Stanback was arrested that night at 8:45 p.m.

Dawson County Court records say that Stanback was charged with first-degree trespassing and spent the weekend in jail. He was released on March 1 when Yolanda Stanback (thought to be his mother) posted the required 10% of the $2,500 bond.

Two days later, around 8:45 on the morning of March 3, a security officer found the body of Stanback’s fiancé on the southeast corner of North Platte, floating in a detention pond near the Wal-Mart Distribution Center.

Police could not match the body with any missing person reports, but after eight days, they announced her identity.

They caught a break in the case when Ermi’s parents, who were on vacation in Florida at the time, called the Gothenburg police looking for their daughter. They knew the couple had been in the Gothenburg area.

Stanback and Ermi reportedly were in an intimate relationship for about a year and half and became engaged in February, North Platte Police Chief Dan Hudson said.

At that point in the investigation, Stanback became the prime suspect, but he was not immediately arrested. Police continued to gather evidence and investigate other details for nearly a week.

Police Chief Dan Hudson said investigators worked with the Lincoln County Attorney to make the case as solid as possible before arresting Stanback.

“Once you make the arrest, the clock starts ticking,” Hudson said.

When Stanback was finally arrested on March 17, he was picked up on other charges. He was driving west on I-80 when a state trooper pulled his Jeep Renegade over two miles east of the I-80 Hershey exit at 12:50 p.m.

He was pulled over for a simple infraction — the rear license plate of the Renegade was “obstructed / unclear,” according to an arrest affidavit filed in Lincoln County Court.

The trooper told the court that he smelled marijuana, and said Stanback admitted he had a little pot in the car, which led to a search.

The search turned up drug paraphernalia and marijuana residue scattered throughout the car, along with more sinister items — two locked safes made to carry handguns. One safe was under the front seat and the other was in the rear cargo area, according to the court affidavit.

Stanback reportedly told the trooper that he didn’t know what was inside the safes, nor did he have any way to open them.

The trooper found out that Stanback was driving on a suspended Colorado driver’s license, and had a lengthy criminal history. His prior record included at least one felony conviction. Therefore, he was prohibited from carrying a weapon, if they could prove a gun was inside a safe.

Stanback was taken to the Lincoln County jail and a search warrant was obtained for the safes. State troopers got one of the safes open and found a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition.

The arresting officer went back to the jail to charge Stanback with possession of an illegal weapon. According to information in the court affidavit, it was a good thing he didn’t waste any time.

The affidavit said Stanback was nearly out of jail after posting bond on the original charge of driving without a license. But the trooper got there in time and charged Stanback with possession of a deadly weapon.

Later, the first-degree murder charge was officially filed.

Currently, prosecutors are taking little chance that Stanback will get out. His bond is set at $5 million for the murder charge, as well as $150,000 for possession of a deadly weapon.

Police would like more information from anyone who many have seen the couple in Nebraska, especially in the areas of Gothenburg, Brady and North Platte. Hudson said more information could fill in gaps about what exactly happened.

Anyone with information regarding this incident or any similar incidents are encouraged to call the North Platte Police Department 308-535-6789. Anonymous information can be given by calling 534-8400 or online at www.lincolncountycrimstoppers.com