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McElderry pushes for plea bargain

POLSON — Attorneys for a man facing homicide charges argued Thursday that the court did not have authority to reject his plea bargain after initially accepting it, nor authority to reinstate deliberate homicide charges.

Adrian McElderry, 32, is accused of killing his wife, RaeLynn Charlo, 29, on Nov. 18, 2014 in their Charlo residence. McElderry reported through a 911 call to Lake County Dispatch that Charlo had killed herself. But 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.

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.

During his arraignment Dec. 4, 2014, McElderry entered a not guilty plea. McElderry then appeared in court May 21 to enter a change of plea and admit to amended charges of mitigated deliberate homicide and obstructing justice, per a plea agreement between McElderry and the State of Montana.

Mitigated homicide carries a maximum 40-year sentence and $50,000 fine, while deliberate homicide is a crime punishable by life in prison or the death penalty and a $50,000 fine. In addition, per the plea agreement, McElderry would have admitted to obstructing justice, which carries a 10-year maximum sentence.

The court accepted the guilty plea and ordered a pre-sentence investigation, but Judge Christopher verbally reserved the right to reject the plea agreement after seeing the investigation reports. The court set sentencing for July 2. 

Then at the end of June, after considering the pre-sentencing investigation report, the court signed an order rejecting the plea, and reinstated original charges.

On Thursday, July 30, McElderry’s public defenders Leta Womack and Brendan McQuillan asked the court to strike the omnibus hearing, reaffirm the guilty plea for mitigated deliberate homicide, and set a date for a status hearing or sentencing, stating that the court had no authority to reject the plea after accepting it.

According to court documents, the attorneys argued that the court exceeded its authority in unilaterally withdrawing mitigated deliberate homicide guilty plea and improperly reinstated to deliberate homicide and tampering or fabricating evidence.

An omnibus hearing was set for Sept. 3.


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