The Evergreen man accused of causing the death of another man during a drunken fight admitted to the charge of negligent homicide on Oct. 24.
David Eugene Day, 54, appeared in Flathead County District Court to change his plea, and admitted to slapping 55-year-old Gerald Payne in June, causing Payne to fall down a set of stairs.
Payne eventually died from the head and neck injuries sustained in the fall.
Day, who has been in jail since the June 1 incident, took the stand on Oct. 24 and said the fight was the result of a day of drinking.
The two men, who knew each other through a mutual acquaintance, Day said, started drinking early that morning at Day’s second-floor apartment at the Montana Village motel in Evergreen, and kept at it through the afternoon.
At about 4 p.m. or 4:30 p.m., the men started fighting.
“He became kind of abusive and didn’t want to leave, so I helped him leave,” Day said on the stand.
The fight continued out on the landing, where Day said Payne said he would come back to the apartment.
“He wanted to come back in and I backslapped him and said, ‘No, you’ve got to leave,'” Day said. “He fell down the stairs.”
After Payne fell, Day said he went down the stairs and checked him out, noting that he was still breathing. A neighbor came over, and Day went to the neighbor’s apartment. When he came back, emergency medical personnel were already on scene.
Investigators said Day initially Day said he blacked out parts of the incident, and said both men were extremely intoxicated at the time.
Prosecutors contended that since Day hit Payne as he was standing on the stairwell, he ignored the possibility that such an action could really harm Payne, leading to the negligent homicide charge.
Day said he knew at the time the hit could lead to Payne falling down the stairs.
“I didn’t know he would fall down the stairs; I knew he could fall,” Day said.
The change in plea came with a plea bargain, which included a recommendation from prosecutors of 15 years in prison, with 10 of those years suspended. The plea agreement also leaves room for Day’s attorney to argue for a 10-year sentence, with five years suspended.
Day is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 23. He is in custody at the Flathead County Detention Center.
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