A 35-year-old man charged with strangling his neighbor during an argument over damage to a fence pleaded guilty Monday to negligent homicide.
Michael Cuchine of Evergreen had been charged with mitigated deliberate homicide for the death of 47-year-old Steven Maycumber. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped the charge and will recommend a 15-year sentence to the Montana Department of Corrections with 10 years suspended. Cuchine’s sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 4.
According to court documents, the May 26 argument escalated when Maycumber hit Cuchine with a wood-splitting maul and Cuchine retaliated and put him in an extended choke hold. A state medical examiner determined that Maycumber died of strangulation.
“I didn’t mean to put him in a choke hold, just pull him away from that ax,” Cuchine testified Monday. “I didn’t mean to kill the guy, no. I was just defending myself.”
But he also testified that he held Maycumber in the choke hold for longer than was needed for self-defense.
Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan said the admission was “essentially the basis for negligence.”
“Cuchine maintained the choke hold and continued to beat on him mercilessly,” Corrigan said
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