|Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment
MONTANA TEACHER KILLED
Colorado man pleads guilty to oil patch murder
SIDNEY, Mont. (AP) A Colorado man has pleaded guilty to the 2012 murder of a Montana teacher in an oil boom town where residents say their lives were forever altered by the crime.
Montana District Judge Richard Simonton on Wednesday accepted the guilty plea from Michael Keith Spell on a count of deliberate homicide. A charge of attempted kidnapping was dropped under a plea agreement.
Prosecutors are recommending a 100-year sentence. They want Spell to serve his time in prison.
Attorneys for Spell want the mentally disabled 25-year-old from Parachute, Colorado, committed to a state institution for the disabled.
Spell admitted that he and an accomplice killed Sherry Arnold during an attempted abduction as the 43-year-old Sidney High School math teacher was out for a pre-dawn jog. The accomplice pleaded guilty last year and is awaiting sentencing.
Blackfeet consultant sentenced for kickbacks
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) A consultant for the Blackfeet Indian tribe who was convicted in a multi-million dollar fraud case as well as bankruptcy fraud has been sentenced to five years in prison and was ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution.
Gary Joseph Conti of Three Forks was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls to five years on each of 29 counts, to run concurrently.
Prosecutors alleged Conti received $475,000 over a three-year period as a consultant to a federally funded program for troubled youth and kicked back $225,000 to Francis Onstad and Delyle "Shanny" Augare, leaders of the Po'Ka Project.
Prosecutors alleged the defendants stole money from the program and falsified invoices to make it look like the tribe was contributing its share to the program to keep the federal money coming in.
Former tribal health director sentenced to 1 year
HELENA, Mont. (AP) A federal judge has sentenced the former head of the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation's health care system to a year in prison for using tribal money to visit her husband while he was in federal prison for stealing tribal money.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls also ordered Fawn Tadios to pay $15,000 in restitution during her sentencing hearing Tuesday.
A jury convicted Tadios on three counts of theft in June.
Prosecutors say Tadios used federal money meant for the tribal health department to visit former Chippewa Cree chairman Jake Parker, Jr., in prison in South Dakota. Parker was given a 16-month sentence in November 2011 after pleading guilty to putting $59,000 in personal charges on a tribal credit card. He also was ordered to pay restitution.
Supreme Court race takes on partisan edge
HELENA, Mont. (AP) A nonpartisan race for Montana Supreme Court is taking on a distinctly partisan edge.
Challenger Lawrence VanDyke is trying to cast Justice Mike Wheat as a liberal activist judge. VanDyke's Republican backers are pouring tens of thousands of dollars into ads to support that message.
Wheat and his supporters in turn have taken to the airwaves with their own ads in the type of election that is often an afterthought on the ballot.
Wheat says the money battle is a sad sign that the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that allowed increased corporate spending in federal elections has arrived at the state's down-ticket races.
Wheat is campaigning to keep the seat he was appointed to in 2010 by then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer. VanDyke is the former state solicitor general.
OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING
Man pleads guilty to shooting at worker, officer
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) A 38-year-old Billings man has pleaded guilty to shooting at a fast-food worker and a police officer who responded to the shooting in an agreement that calls for a 55-year prison sentence.
Justin Wesley Delacruz pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of attempted deliberate homicide with a weapons enhancement along with felony robbery, criminal endangerment and possession of meth.
Prosecutors say he demanded money from a Sonic Drive-in employee early July 6, fired shots at the employee and then shot through the windshield of a responding officer's car. The two men engaged in a shootout that ended when Delacruz's gun jammed and he threw the weapon.
Police Chief Rich St. John has said Delacruz had been drinking and smoking PCP-laced cigarettes and had meth in his possession.
Delacruz has been jailed on $1 million bail since his arrest.
TATTOO CUTTING THREAT
Man gets deferred sentence in domestic assault
(Information in the following story is from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) A 43-year-old Missoula man who tried to make his girlfriend cut a tattoo of his name off her chest and then beat her unconscious has been given a deferred sentence, even though the judge said he doesn't think he can remain law abiding for three years.
The Missoulian reports District Judge Dusty Deschamps sentenced Joe Rene Gallegos Tuesday, giving him credit for 86 days he's spent in jail since his arrest in late July.
Gallegos pleaded guilty to felony partner assault and assault with a weapon.
Prosecutors say Gallegos and his girlfriend were arguing over a Facebook post made by Gallegos' ex-wife and Gallegos got violent when the girlfriend said she was leaving him.
Gallegos must register as a violent offender, stay away from the victim as well as alcohol, illegal drugs, guns and gambling.
Woman dies in crash near Plentywood
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) A 34-year-old woman died in a two-vehicle crash on Montana Highway 5 in northeastern Montana.
Sheridan County Coroner Dave Fulkerson identified the victim as Julia Perkins. He told The Billings Gazette that Perkins had a Nebraska driver's license but her family was contacted in West Des Moines, Iowa.
The Montana Highway Patrol says Perkins was driving eastbound near Plentywood at about 6:10 p.m. Tuesday when she abruptly hit the brakes. Her car slid into the westbound lane and collided with a car driven by a 46-year-old man from Webster, North Dakota.
Perkins died at the scene. Her passenger, a man in his 30s, was ejected from the vehicle. Both he and the North Dakota man were taken to the hospital in Plentywood.
Fulkerson says Perkins had some medical conditions that could have contributed to the crash.
CAR HITS BOY
Helena boy struck by car, injured
(Information in the following story is from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com)
HELENA, Mont. (AP) Police in Helena say an 8-year-old boy was struck by a vehicle in a crosswalk and the driver was cited for failure to yield.
Lt. Torey Keltner says the boy was upset and crying when emergency responders arrived and he was taken to the hospital. His condition was not immediately known.
The Independent Record reports the boy, his mother and sister were crossing the street on a green light Tuesday afternoon when a car turned and struck the boy.
Police say the driver of the vehicle initially intended to go straight through the intersection, but decided to turn right due to the high volume of traffic. The driver was cited for failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
POLICE DOG EUTHANIZED
Police dog euthanized after biting officers
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) A Great Falls police dog has been euthanized after unprovoked attacks on three officers.
Police Chief Dave Bowen says the K-9 Shep was removed from duty recently after biting his new handler.
Shep was then returned to his original handler's home, but continued to show aggressive behavior toward the handler and his family.
Bowen says Shep bit his handler on Friday and then bit another officer.
He says the attacks were out of character for Shep, who had been on duty for about three years. Two of the officers went to the emergency room for treatment. All three are recovering, with one still on light duty.
There are no immediate plans to replace Shep. The department has two other K-9 units.
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