Whitefish Man Convicted of Murdering Girlfriend in 1989 Dies in Prison

John E. Gambrel died on Sunday at the Montana State Prison

By Justin Franz

A 58-year-old Whitefish man convicted of murdering his girlfriend in 1989 died at the Montana State Prison on Sunday.

John E. Gambrel shot and killed Lori Anne Schwegel in 1989 and was later sentenced to 110 years in prison. Details surrounding Gambrel’s death were not immediately available.

Gambrel was drinking in downtown Whitefish on the night of Feb. 4, 1989 when, at about 11 p.m., he went to the apartment he shared with Schwegel and shot her six times with a rifle. Gambrel then returned downtown and continued drinking until the bars closed.

According to court documents, Gambrel returned to the apartment at 2 a.m. and fired two shots into his head; one that grazed his chin and another that went through his chin, mouth and nose before exiting his head between his eyes. Prosecutors argued that this was an attempt to cover up the murder and one witness said that Gambrel had once bragged that he had learned how to shoot someone without killing them at mercenary school.

After shooting himself, Gambrel went to a neighbor’s apartment to summon help. Gambrel later testified that as he was entering his apartment, someone struck him on the head and knocked him unconscious. However, Gambrel suffered no injuries to the back of the head and his wounds were consistent with that of a self-inflicted gunshot.

Gambrel filed for parole in 2006 and 2014 but it was denied on both occasions.

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