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Judge rejects plea bargain

POLSON – A Lake County man could face life in prison or the death penalty after Lake County Judge Deborah Kim Christopher rejected a plea deal. 

Adrian McElderry, 32, is accused of killing his wife, RaeLynn Charlo, 29, on Nov. 18, 2014. in their Charlo residence.

Christopher reviewed a pre-sentence investigation filed June 25 in the case and rejected the plea bargain on June 29. The deal would have had McElderry plead guilty to mitigated homicide, which carries a maximum 40-year sentence and $50,000 fine. In addition he would have admitted to obstructing justice, which carries a 10-year maximum sentence. 

Instead, original deliberate homicide and tampering with evidence charges were reinstated by Christopher. Those charges will mean McElderry could be punished by life in prison or the death penalty and a $50,000 fine. 

According to court documents McElderry reported that Charlo had killed herself through a 911 call to Lake County Dispatch at 5:08 a.m. on Nov. 18, 2014. When deputies arrived McElderry told investigators that Charlo had been upset with him for drinking and he had been outside in his shop. When he returned to the house, Charlo fired a shot at him and then turned the gun on herself, McElderry said.

Evidence at the scene didn’t match McElderry’s story, and deputies found a .22 Magnum revolver and several unspent rounds of .22 Magnum ammo covered in blood near Charlo.

McElderry became combative, didn’t want to provide deputies with his blood-soaked clothing, and made it so deputies had to get a warrant to continue the investigation. 

McElderry said he was buzzed at the time of the incident after drinking half a pack of beer, but that he knew what was going on. He said he never fired a gun in the house or at Charlo, but said he would have gunpowder on his hands from shooting another gun earlier in the evening. 

McElderry also gave detectives a story about Charlo allegedly firing warning shots that did not match forensic evidence found at the scene. 

When confronted with the inconsistencies in the evidence and his story, McElderry told investigators he blacks out a lot and that he was too drunk to remember what happened.

Montana State Crime Lab officials determined that a gun was fired inches from Charlo’s head, but was not in contact with her body when the single bullet immediately incapacitated her. 

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