Jan. 3 Montana News Briefs

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Trial set for Montana man charged in shooting death

HELENA (AP) — A jury trial has been set for a former Montana firearms safety instructor accused of fatally shooting his hunting partner. The Helena Independent Record reports 62-year-old Gregg Robert Trude, of Helena, automatically entered a not-guilty plea on Wednesday, which is standard during an arraignment. His trial is set for May 6. Trude is charged with negligent homicide and tampering with physical evidence, both felonies, in the death of Dr. Eugene “Buzz” Walton. The 48-year-old Walton was shot with a hunting rifle on Oct. 21, 2018, after he and Trude had just returned from a hunting trip. Officials have not specified who owned the rifle or who was handling it when it was discharged. The Independent Record has filed a request for the police report that led to the charges against Trude and is awaiting a response.

Former undersheriff charged with raping a 14-year-old girl

BILLINGS (AP) — A former northeastern Montana undersheriff is facing a second felony sex charge. Luke Strommen was charged in October with sexual abuse of a child after a woman reported she had sex with the officer in his patrol car while he was on duty, starting in 2014, when she was 17. The charge relates to him requesting sexual images of the girl. He has pleaded not guilty. He resigned as a Valley County deputy on Nov. 1. The Billings Gazette reports a second accuser came forward in November saying she had sex with Strommen between 2009 and 2011, starting when she was 14. Montana’s age of consent is 16. Strommen was expected to appear in court on Jan. 14 on the new charge of sexual intercourse without consent. The state attorney general’s office is prosecuting the case.

Judge dismisses deliberate homicide charge

KALISPELL (AP) — A northwestern Montana judge has dismissed a deliberate homicide charge in an April shooting in Hungry Horse. The Flathead Beacon reports District Judge Heidi Ulbricht dismissed the charge Monday after a motion was filed by Flathead County Attorney Travis Ahner. Ahner said the brother of the victim, 33-year-old Bradley Allen Winters, was not cooperating with the prosecution of 48-year-old James Quen of Martin City. Ahner filed his motion days after Ulbricht cited Quen’s criminal record in rejecting an agreement that called for him to plead guilty to the lesser charge of negligent homicide in exchange for a 10-year suspended sentence. Ahner’s motion also noted “all of the individuals involved were on meth,” which would bring eye-witness testimony into question. Quen spent eight months in jail.

2 men seriously hurt in small plane crash in western Montana

HELENA (AP) — Two men were seriously injured in a plane crash that was discovered by utility workers in western Montana. Broadwater County Sheriff Wynn Meehan tells The Independent Record in Helena the Cessna 180 crashed about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) southwest of Townsend and was found Wednesday evening. The men, who were alert and able to speak with emergency responders, were flown from the scene to different hospitals. NorthWestern Energy spokeswoman Jo Dee Black says a company crew was checking on an outage Wednesday afternoon and found a downed powerline and the small airplane nearby. A piece of the tail was found on a gravel bar in the river, and the plane was located by yelling until the two men responded. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Lawyers for woman charged in killings request venue change

MISSOULA (AP) — Attorneys are seeking a new trial venue for a Montana woman charged in the deaths of two people whose bodies were found dismembered in acid-filled tubs in a basement. The Missoulian reports lawyers for 23-year-old Tiffanie Pierce motioned Monday for the trial to move to Yellowstone County, arguing the new location would preserve more impartiality among potential jurors. Pierce is charged with deliberate homicide in the 2017 stabbing deaths of 15-year-old Marilyn Pickett and 24-yearold Jackson Wiles. She has pleaded not guilty. The bodies were discovered in the basement of Pierce’s Missoula home. Prosecutors say Augustus Standingrock and Pierce tried to dissolve the bodies in plastic tubs filled with chemicals. Standingrock pleaded guilty last month to charges of deliberate homicide and accountability to deliberate homicide.

Powerful winds forecast for northern Montana through Friday

GREAT FALLS (AP) — Hold onto your hats, and maybe your lawn ornaments. The National Weather Service is forecasting prolonged, strong winds along the northern Rocky Mountain Front and the plains to the east through Friday afternoon. Gusts from 80 to 100 mph (129 to 161 kph) are forecast along the Front with gusts in the 70 mph range (113 kph) in the rest of the warning area, which includes Conrad, Great Falls, Havre, Harlem, Lewistown and Harlowton. The most damaging winds are forecast from Thursday night into Friday morning, making travel difficult for highprofile vehicles. Strong winds could also lead to power outages and tree or property damage. Strong winds will combine with snow on the west side of the Rocky Mountains, causing near whiteout conditions through Friday, especially in the Marias Pass area just south of Glacier National Park.