BILLINGS — A former Colorado attorney and fly-fishing guide was sentenced Friday to 100 years in prison for the 1999 killing of his wife, whose strangled body was found floating in a bay along Montana’s Bighorn River.
Brian and Kathryn Laird had been married about five months when she died at 28. Prosecutors say Brian Laird, now 48, killed her during an argument at their house near Fort Smith before her body was found downstream of Yellowtail Dam.
He has no prior history of violence and would be eligible for parole in 25 years under the sentence handed down by state District Judge Michael Hayworth.
Defense attorney Matt Wald had sought a 40-year sentence. He said after Friday’s hearing that he will appeal Laird’s conviction.
“What we asked for was appropriate,” Wald said. “What (Brian Laird) said was, he didn’t do this. He still doesn’t know how she died and he misses her.”
Just hours before her death, Kathryn Laird told friends that she intended to separate from her husband, according to investigators.
The manner of death remained undetermined following an autopsy at the time of her death, and the criminal investigation was largely dormant for more than a decade despite longstanding suspicions of Brian Laird’s involvement.
Court documents show Laird was questioned extensively in 2002 when he sought a license to practice law in Missouri.
In 2012, the investigation was revived when FBI agent came across the names of two neighbors who had not been previously interviewed. They testified during Laird’s trial in March that they overheard an argument between the couple on the last night Kathryn Laird was seen alive.
Brian Laird later moved to Colorado, where he was arrested for deliberate homicide in 2014 in Fort Collins.
The couple met as students at Southern Methodist University in Texas, and in 1999 were living in a trailer court in Fort Smith. Brian Laird worked as a fishing guide while practicing law part-time in Billings, and Kathryn Laird had several jobs, including one at a fly fishing shop.
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