Missoula Man Convicted in Beating Death of Homeless Veteran

By Beacon Staff

HAVRE — A Hill County jury deliberated for two hours Friday before finding a Missoula man guilty of deliberate homicide for the beating death of a homeless Navy veteran.

Anthony St. Dennis, 19, will be sentenced March 5 for the death of 56-year-old Forrest Salcido, whose body was found the morning of Dec. 6, 2007, near a footbridge in Missoula.

St. Dennis’ co-defendant, 21-year-old Dustin Strahan, also is charged with homicide and is scheduled to stand trial in March.

During closing arguments, Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg told jurors that a recorded jailhouse phone conversation between St. Dennis and a friend was a clear indication of the defendant’s guilt.

“I mean, this is not a whodunnit,” Van Valkenburg said. “Anthony St. Dennis was involved in this whole thing. … It’s not like he’s sorry he got busted. He’s almost announcing it like an accomplishment.”

The audio recording was played to jurors Thursday over the objections of defense attorneys.

In the recording, St. Dennis tells a friend that he’s charged with deliberate homicide, but doesn’t “know what deliberate means but I know what homicide means. I killed the (expletive).”

He then goes on to say “I’m a murderer.”

Van Valkenburg also asked the jury to consider eyewitness testimony from Strahan, who appeared on the witness stand Wednesday and placed the blame squarely on St. Dennis. Strahan said St. Dennis stomped on Salcido’s head at least 10 times and perhaps as many as 20 times, raising his leg high before landing each blow.

But public defender Chris Daly dismissed the veracity of the “so-called jailhouse confession,” recorded just after St. Dennis’ arrest.

Daly described St. Dennis as a “scared teen” who needed to act like a “macho guy.” The attorney called Strahan “opportunistic” and pointed to the testimony of one defense expert, a private pathologist who testified that several factors contributed to Salcido’s death, including hypothermia and alcohol intoxication.

The case was moved to Havre after defense lawyers argued successfully that media coverage of the homicide was inflammatory, making it impossible to choose an impartial jury in Missoula.