By Alan Sorensen
It took the jury nearly 13 hours over two days, minus a few minutes for lunch and supper, to reach split decisions in the murder trial of Jacob Gary Spang.
The 12-person jury found Spang, 19, innocent of murder by accountability in the shooting deaths last September of Kristi Walker, 30, and Kevin Caplette, 30, both of Havre. In the verdict announced shortly 4 p.m. Tuesday, they did find him guilty of felony intimidation by accountability for his actions leading up to the murders.
The jurors also found Spang guilty of felony tampering with evidence and innocent of accountability in the theft of a car from the murder scene.
To ensure that the verdict was correct, 12th Judicial District Court Judge John Warner polled the jurors. Each in turn replied yes when asked if he or she agreed with every aspect of the verdict as read by the clerk of court.
Jurors deliberated from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and from 8:30 a.m. to nearly 4 p.m. Tuesday.
At the request of Spang's lawyer, Carl White, Warner reduced Spang's bail from $25,000 to $10,000 and removed some of the conditions placed earlier on his possible release. Assistant Montana Attorney General Joe Thaggard of Missoula disagreed and asked Warner to keep the bail at $25,000.
Warner agreed with White that Spang is indigent, not a flight risk, and that his entire family lives within the state of Montana.
Warner removed the restrictions that would have required Spang to live in a remote environment outside Hill County and to remain under electronic monitoring. Warner noted that Danell is incarcerated in Hill County Detention Center without bail and lifted the restriction that Spang refrain from contacting others involved in the crimes.
Warner ordered Spang to remain law-abiding and to refrain from the use of alcohol and drugs and warned him that even a parking ticket could land him back in jail. Spang also was ordered to report to officers with the department of corrections in Havre between 8 a.m. and noon every Monday for possible urinalysis and blood tests. He also must appear in person before Hill County Dispatchers at the Justice Center or at the Hill County Attorney's Office between 8 a.m. and noon every Friday.
Spang must provide his address and phone number to the court and county attorney at all times and must not change either without prior approval. Warner added that the place where Spang lives and the person he lives with may be searched for contraband at any time.
In conclusion, Warner placed Spang under an 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew. Warner cautioned Spang that he must be at "the hospital, mortuary or your place of residence" during those hours or face jail.
Warner ordered a presentencing investigation of Spang and set his sentencing for 9 a.m. on July 19.
The maximum penalties for his felony offenses are up to 10 years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines on each count.
Spang's sister, Francine Spang, 16, pleaded guilty in youth court the day before to the charges of tampering with evidence and theft by accountability. The agreement, offered a couple of weeks ago by Hill County Attorney David Rice, dropped the charges of murder and intimidation by accountability that had been leveled at the girl.
Rice said Spang, her parents and her lawyers Thomas Sheehy, Big Sandy, and Stephen Gannon, Havre approached him about accepting the agreement after Warner handed her brother's case over to the jury Monday afternoon.
The agreement was presented to Warner in the courtroom shortly after 5 p.m., Rice said, and Warner agreed to it.
"We reduced her charges from adult to youth court and she pleaded guilty (to the two charges)," Rice said.
Francine Spang's sentencing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. July 12.
Rice said he is seeking to have her treated as a person subject to extended juvenile jurisdiction. That would mean that she could be held in custody until she is 18 and then placed on probation until she turns 21. If she remains law-abiding and complies with the rules of probation during that time, she could be discharged. If she violates the law or rules of probation, she could be subject to imprisonment for up to five years with the potential of being incarcerated until she is 26.
Danell pleaded guilty on May 15 to two counts of deliberate homicide. He admitted that he was the one who fired the shots that killed Caplette and Walker.
Warner set ordered a presentencing investigation of Danell and scheduled his sentencing for 1:30 p.m. June 29. He faces sentences of either life or between 10 and 100 years on each count. Warner told Danell at the time that the judge was bound by Danell's plea agreement and that the sentences could be set to run consecutively.
After Spang's verdict was announced, Rice said that he found no fault with it.
"I think it's a reasonable verdict based upon the law," Rice told reporters. Thaggard, the lead attorney for the prosecution, was assisted in court by Deputy Hill County Attorney Aileen Miller.
Spang's cousin, Angie LaFrance was one of the few family members who agreed to be quoted as about a dozen of them headed over to Carl White's law office. "I think Carl (White) did a great job, and we knew that Jake was not guilty," she said. White was assisted in the defense by Edmund Sheehy, a Helena lawyer.