Fifteen months after he broke into and destroyed a Kalispell health clinic, 24-year-old Zachary Klundt was sentenced to five years in Montana State Prison for a crime that made regional headlines.
Klundt received a 20-year sentence with 15 years suspended on Thursday in Flathead County District Court. He also received two 10-year sentences that will be suspended and run concurrently with the first sentence. Klundt will also be required to pay more than $600,000 in restitution to the clinic’s proprietor, Susan Cahill, and the landlord of the building in which the clinic was located.
The sentence was handed down after the court heard more than seven hours of testimony over three days in a hearing that revealed more details of the crime that many believed was politically motivated. All Families Healthcare was the only medical facility in Northwest Montana that provided abortions.
On Thursday afternoon, the woman at the center of the assault took the stand and spoke directly to Klundt, who faced felony charges of burglary, criminal mischief and theft.
“Zachary, I hope you regret what you did because you should,” Cahill said. “I hope you’re able to make better decisions in the future, but nonetheless you did a terrible thing to me and my patients and you need to be punished.”
While Klundt’s attorney argued that the young man was drunk and looking for drugs when he vandalized the clinic in March 2014, Cahill said she believes his actions were politically motivated. Klundt’s mother, Twyla Klundt, was on the board of Hope Pregnancy Ministries, a local Christian group that opposes abortion.
On the first day of the sentencing hearing, the detective who led the Kalispell Police Department’s investigation into the vandalism provided more details about the day Klundt destroyed the clinic. According to Capt. Scott Warnell, Klundt texted his mother on the afternoon of March 3 asking “what is the abortionist’s name?” and for information about where Cahill’s new office was located. Cahill moved out of her old office on Meridian Road in early 2014 when Michelle and Kent Reimer purchased the building and evicted her. Michelle Reimer works as the executive director of Hope Pregnancy Ministries, the anti-abortion group.
Deputy County Attorney Stacy Boman said the fact that Klundt specifically asked for information about Cahill showed that the vandalism was a targeted attack. She added that even though Klundt broke into at least three other businesses in early March 2014, he never damaged anything at those establishments.
While prosecutors worked to paint the picture of a man who plotted his crime, Klundt’s attorney, Peter Leander, urged the judge to look at the young man’s past struggles with addiction, depression and other mental conditions.
On Wednesday, the hearing’s second day, Klundt’s sister talked about her older brother’s struggles and how he turned to drugs and alcohol when his marriage fell apart. Kate Aly said Klundt had mental issues that were never properly addressed and he was on a “crazy amount of antidepressants” before he broke into and destroyed the clinic. She noted that the incident occurred around the time of his wedding anniversary.
“The divorce was devastating for Zach,” she said. “March 1, 2014 would have been his sixth wedding anniversary and that was when he took a turn for the worst.”
On Thursday afternoon, most of the testimony focused on the matter of restitution. Prosecutors argued that Klundt should pay more than $600,000 for Cahill’s lost salary, business, equipment and other expenses associated with the incident. But the defense said the figure was too much and went beyond what Montana law allows. In the end, Judge Ted Lympus sided with prosecutors.
During the closing arguments, Boman said that Klundt’s apologies and claims that he was looking for drugs rang “hollow.” Leander countered that Klundt had made progress in the last year, had attended a drug rehabilitation program, was attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and that he was already making restitution payments. Leander stressed that any efforts to pay restitution would be interrupted if Klundt went to prison.
Just before the judge handed down his sentence, Klundt addressed the court. While reading a prepared statement, he apologized for his actions but also said that he never targeted Cahill because she offered abortions.
“I placed you into a life of fear and the belief that you have to sleep with a weapon to protect yourself,” Klundt said. “I can’t believe I have done that to another person and I am sorry.”
All eyes then focused on Judge Lympus, who swiftly handed down a sentence.
“You have made progress, there is no doubt about that,” he said. “But there must be consequences for your behavior.”
After his sentencing, Klundt turned to his family, hugged them and walked away in the custody of the Flathead County sheriff’s deputy.
Outside the courtroom, reporters and supporters swarmed around Cahill, who said the sentence sent a message that the community will not stand for intolerance.
“Our community needed this sentence,” she said. “We must live in tolerance.”
Soon after the hearing, the Montana chapter of NARAL, or the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, issued a statement that said the sentence sent a clear message that “anti-choice violence will not be tolerated in our state.” It went on to note that since 1977, at least 41 clinics have been bombed and 175 have been burned in the United States. In 1994, a Washington man firebombed the Kalispell office of Dr. James Armstrong, where Cahill first worked. Richard T. Andrews was eventually convicted of burning seven clinics across the West.