Evergreen Child-Murder Trial Set for March

Brandon Newberry complains about counsel in hand-written letter to judge

By Justin Franz

The trial for the man accused of killing an Evergreen toddler is scheduled to begin on March 14, 2016.

Lawyers for Brandon Walter Lee Newberry and prosecutors met in Flathead County District Court on Aug. 13 for a status hearing, nearly six months after the defendant allegedly beat his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son, Forrest Groshelle, to death.

Newberry has been charged with deliberate homicide. He pleaded not guilty in February.

Newberry’s trial was originally set for September, but lawyers on both sides said they needed more time to prepare. The jury trial is expected to take two weeks. Because Newberry was waiving his right to a speedy trial, District Court Judge Heidi Ulbricht required that he attend the hearing.

The court also addressed a letter that Newberry had written the judge on Aug. 4 where he complained about his counsel and accused them of ineffective representation. In the two-page handwritten letter, Newberry wrote that his attorneys, Vicki Frazier and Greg Rapkock, had denied his request for a bond hearing and that they were not interviewing the potential witnesses he suggested.

“My family is being victimized over this case,” Newberry wrote. “Threats have been made, cars have been vandalized and stolen from [sic] my family is living in fear.”

During the hearing, Newberry said he talked with Regional Deputy Public Defender Nick Aemisegger and that he had resolved the issues he outlined in the letter.

According to court documents, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office received a call about an unresponsive child on Feb. 17. During the call, Newberry could be heard screaming in the background, “it’s my fault, it’s my fault.”

When police arrived, they found bruising, scratching and abrasions on Groshelle’s body. An autopsy revealed that the child had been hit multiple times in the abdomen, causing perienteritis, a laceration of the small intestine.

In an interview with sheriff’s deputies, the mother, Takara Juntunen, revealed that Newberry had been watching Groshelle on a daily basis while she was at work. Juntunen also said that her son had been vomiting in the preceding days, suggesting that the assault may have occurred between Feb. 11 and 17, according to police. During an interview with police, Newberry admitted that he had been “roughhousing” with the child the previous day.

If convicted, Newberry could face up to 100 years in prison.