Columbus man killed in head-on crash with Park County sheriff's deputy

By: 
Marlo Pronovost
Monday, April 8, 2019

Montana Department of Corrections photo

   Schawn M. Schmitz

The Columbus area man killed in a head-on collision with a Park County Sheriff’s deputy Friday night near Livingston was a multi-state convicted felon on probation in Stillwater County.

Schawn Michael Schmitz, 53, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash on Highway 89 around midnight last Friday, April 5. Park County Coroner Al Jenkins identified Schmitz Monday.

Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) Director of Communications Amy Barton confirmed Tuesday morning that Schmitz is in fact probationer Schawn Michael Schmitz, despite the two different spellings of his first name.

Park County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Elliott-Pearson was airlifted to Billings and as of Sunday, had undergone three surgeries and was listed in stable condition, according to a Face-book post by Park County Sheriff Brad W. Bichler. More surgeries are expected.

Deputy Elliott-Pearson, 61, was awarded a Meritorious Service medal for saving a life in 2015.

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper David Morris is investigating the crash. Sheriff Bichler wrote Sunday that at that point, it appeared as though Schmitz’s car left its lane of travel and collided with Deputy Elliott-Pearson’s patrol car.

Further information was not available as of Wednesday morning.

MULTI-STATE FELON

Schmitz was a convicted felon currently on probation from a 2015 felony criminal endangerment case in Still-water County. That case involved him grabbing his wife by the throat, throwing her to the ground, sitting on her chest and using both hands to strangle her following an argument, according to court documents and statements made at court hearings.

The couple’s dogs also attacked the wife as she was trying to fight Schmitz off, biting her on the leg and trying to bite her face. Schmitz took the dogs outside and later, when he went to check on the animals, the wife was able to call 911. She hid in a closet until deputies arrived.

Schmitz was initially charged with aggravated assault, but that was amended to criminal endangerment.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, the Stillwater County Attorney’s Office recommended a 3-year sentence to the Montana Department of Corrections (DOC). However, the DOC probation officer who prepared the sentencing background report recommended a 10-year sentence to the Montana State Prison, based on a “long history of a lot of violence and drug use” that included multiple felonies in different states, according to testimony at the sentencing hearing.

District Judge Blair Jones split the difference, imposing a 10-year DOC sentence with five years suspended, noting the criminal history and the fact that the judge was not convinced the underlying problems had been addressed, which put others at risk.

A FATHER

Schmitz was also remembered by his son as a good father who on at least one occasion, had save his life. The son also told the News that while his father had been in trouble in the past, he was getting his life turned around and was a working, productive citizen.

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