Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
A jury Monday convicted James Main Jr. Of Hays, born in 1960, of a charge of deliberate homicide stemming from the Nov. 25, 2006, death of Lloyd “Lucky” Kvelstad. Sentencing for Main has not yet been set. Judge E. Wayne Phillips of Lewistown presided over the trial. The jury retired to deliberate about 2:45 p.m. Monday following a six-day trial in state District Court in Havre. The jury announced it had reached a verdict about 6:30 p.m. Main was charged with committing or being accountable for the commission of aggravated assault which led to Kvelstad’s death. As an alternative, the jury could have found Main guilty of a misdemeanor assault. Melissa “Missy” Snow, in whose residence Kvelstad’s body was found, pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence for cleaning up blood in her residence after the assault on Kvelstad. She was sentenced to three years with the state Department of Corrections with the last year suspended after she violated conditions of release on a suspended sentence. Kim A. Norquay Jr. Was convicted in November of charges of deliberate homicide and tampering with physical evidence stemming from the death of Kvelstad. He is scheduled for sentencing in March. In the closing arguments presented to the jury Monday, defense attorney Kenneth Olson said the evidence all points to Norquay killing Kvelstad. His client, he said, has been the victim of a slanted case of investigation and prosecution. “There was absolutely nothing fair about it,” Olson said. The prosecution said that is not the case the state believes that all of the people charged should be held accountable. “It would be a tragedy of justice if we only went halfway and found that only Mr. Norquay is involved,” Dan Guzynski said. Both the defense and prosecution in the case contended there were two separate assaults in Snow’s residence during a party the day fol lowing Thanksgiving 2006. According to witnesses, Main and Kvelstad got into an argument about racial issues, such as the European settlement of the New World, the Thanksgiving hol iday and the American Indian Movement. That led to a fight between Main and Kvelstad, with others including Norquay and Jason Skidmore also getting involved, prosecution witnesses testified. After some people at the party left, both sides of the case contended, a second assault occurred, which led to Kvelstad’s death. The prosecution alleged that Main also is accountable for that assault, while the defense contended he was in another room and is not accountable. Olson listed a series of issues that he said show the investigation and prosecution are ignoring evidence and testimony that show his client is innocent. Much of the testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution is questionable, Olson said, including that of Norquay and Snow, who changed their stories as the investigation proceeded. He also pointed to statements by witnesses that were never used by the prosecution. The witnesses said they heard Snow and Norquay talk about the assault, and that the blame was being shifted to Main. Part of that testimony included that of Gabriel Cheatam, who said that while he was incarcerated in the Hill County jail with Norquay, Norquay claimed to be solely responsible for Kvelstad’s death, and said he had raped Kvelstad’s body. Sexual assault tests conducted on Kvelstad’s body at the state Crime Lab were inconclusive. Olson pointed out that another witness testified that she dropped off Skidmore for a few minutes sometime after midnight, and that the residence possibly could have been Snow’s. Olson also listed numerous items, including what appeared to be a piece of bloody tissue found on the ground outside of Snow’s residence, a jacket with what appeared to be a blood-soaked glove inside it and a cup seized as evidence from Snow’s residence, which were never tested to see if stains included Kvelstad’s blood or analyzed for fingerprints. “They had an obligation to follow those leads but they never did,” Olson said. Olson also said there is a problem with Main’s motivation he did not know Kvelstad and had no reason to kill him. Olson said evidence showing Main’s blood was found in the apartment and on Snow and Norquay, as well as Kvelstad’s blood being found on Main, can be explained by the first fight and by the transfer of blood from the scene and from other people on to Main. “I believe the evidence has shown the state has failed to prove the elements of this crime beyond a reasonable doubt,” Olson said. The prosecuting attorneys listed a series of events they said did prove Main was accountable. Guzynski and his co-counsel, Barbara Harris, said testimony showed that Main and Skidmore had assaulted Kvelstad including choking him until he passed out, as well as showing that Norquay had assaulted Kvelstad and talked about or attempted to rape him, Joseph Red Elk also testified that, after the initial assault was over, he heard Main and Norquay both talking about killing Kvelstad. He testified that he and Skidmore had left after the situation calmed down. Harris listed testimony by Nathan Oats that after he discovered the body and it was announced that the police were on the way, Main tried to leave and Oats kept him from leaving. Norquay left while Oats was restraining Main, Oats testified. The blood found in the residence and DNA analysis also shows Main participated in the assault, Guzynski argued. A large stain of Kvelstad’s blood was found on the tongue of one of Main’s boots, and another large stain was found on his pants, soaked through the fabric, he said. “Main’s story is he got that in a little scuffle,” Guzynski said. Kvelstad’s blood was found throughout the house, he said, in the bathroom, in the living room and in the kitchen, including on the ceilings of the living room and kitchen. “How can you be anywhere near the house and not be aware this brutality is happening?” Guzynski asked the jury. Harris said the defense seems to be selective in what it is pointing out, such as asking the jury not to believe the testimony and statements of Norquay and Snow used by the prosecution, but to believe what others testified they said. “This must be pretty confusing,” she said. Harris said the investigation did include some of the issues Olson said were ignored Havre law enforcement did interview witnesses who said Snow and Norquay had told them about the murder, including talking to people who said Snow talked to them in the Cascade County jail and in treatment centers. “The defense has that information because the state gave it to them,” she said. Witnesses during the trial testified that some items were not tested at the crime lab because their value as evidence was questionable, and the resources at the lab are limited. Harris pointed out that the defense also could have had the evidence tested. “Both the prosecution and defense have access to the crime lab,” she said. She said Main’s own statements also give possible motives one could be racial, indicated by the argument that led to the first fight, the other could be jealousy over Snow’s relationships with Kvelstad and Norquay, she said.