Fishtail man gets probation in strangulation case

By: 
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, August 29, 2019
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A Fishtail man will spend the next three years on probation for strangling his wife during a drunken fight last December.

Russell Joseph Demers, 56, appeared in 22nd Judicial District Court last week for sentencing on one felony count of strangulation of a partner/family member. In addition to a deferred 3-year sentence to the Montana Department of Corrections, Demers was also ordered to pay $1,085 in fines and fees and follow 35 court-imposed conditions.

If he abides by all the conditions of probation for three years, Demers can have the felony offense cleared from his record.

The case ended in a joint plea agreement between Stillwater County Attorney Nancy Rohde and defense attorney Greg Paskell. Judge Matt Wald immediately asked if the victim had been consulted about the agreement, to which Rohde said yes.

Demers said he was in anger management counseling and was thankful — and surprised — his wife had stood by him.

“This was a situation where you harmed someone you love,” Judge Wald said to Demers.

Wald also noted that the victim was supportive.

Wald also said the sentence provides for community safety through supervision, accountability for Demer’s actions and options for the court if there are problems in the future.

THE CASE

According to court documents, on Dec. 23, 2018, at 11 p.m., Stillwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Cole Waltner was dispatched to a cabin at Carter’s Camp in Nye on a report of domestic disturbance-in-progress.

A woman had called dispatch, frantically explaining that her husband — Demers — would not stop drinking.

The dispatcher could hear Demers yelling in the background. The woman was able to get to her truck and leave, but her direction of travel was unknown.

Having had previous contacts with the couple, Deputy Waltner and Columbus Police Officer Jason Ferguson responded to the couple’s home on Fiddler’s Creek Road.

The woman answered the front door, crying with torn clothing and disheveled hair. Law enforcement noted what appeared to be dried blood around her nose and mouth, as well as a swollen lip and swelling of the entire left side of her face, according to court documents.

She told the deputy that after Demers had been thrown out of an area bar, he had come to a cabin she had rented, yelled and called her derogatory names. When she tried to leave, Demers followed her and began “beating her with fists on the back of her head, and repeating “I’m going to ------- kill you!” according to court documents.

The woman later explained in detail how Demers pulled her out of the truck, put her shoulders and head in a bear-hug type movement, forced her head and face down into her chest area and continued to push down until her airway was blocked at least two times, according to court documents. During this, Demers allegedly told his wife he was going to kill her.

Eventually, Demers was able to pull his wife completely out of the truck, and she landed facedown on the ground, at which point Demers got on top of her and used his fist to hit her in the back of the head, according to court documents. She was able to break free of him and ran into the cabin, at which point she hit Demers over the head with a bottle of alcohol, “but it did not even slow his attack,” according to court documents.

The lawmen then went to the cabin to question Demers and found him unsteady on his feet with slow and slurred speech. Also noted was broken glass from what appeared to be a beer bottle and the strong smell of alcohol. Demers said he knew that his wife had called 911 and asked where she was. Deputy Waltner responded that she was “somewhere safe.”

Deputy Waltner noticed scrapes on Demers head and hands and when he asked where they came from, Demers could not remember, other than to say he and his wife had been in an argument. Demers also claimed that his wife had attacked him and had broken a beer bottle over his head, according to court documents.

Demers was then handcuffed and transported to the sheriff’s office. During the transport, he continued to talk, calling his wife derogatory and vulgar names. At one point, he said “I should have killed her a long time ago and this never would have happened,” according to court documents.

After arriving at the sheriff’s office, he said his wife’s version of events was true.

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