The four people arrested in connection with the murder of a 35-year-old Kalispell man over Memorial Day weekend pleaded not guilty July 7 to charges related to the homicide.
Robert Matthew Wittal, 29, Melisa Ann Crone, 29, Christopher Michael Hansen, 28, and David Vincent Toman, 20, all appeared at an arraignment hearing in Flathead County District Court, where they entered not guilty pleas to charges stemming from the stabbing death of Wade Allen Rautio. All four are expected to stand trial in the fall.
Wittal has been charged with deliberate homicide while the three others have been charged with accountability to deliberate homicide. Crone was also charged with criminal possession of dangerous drugs after detectives discovered she had methamphetamine.
According to court documents, Rautio had been staying with Crone at her home in May when she accused him of stealing drugs and money from her. Wittal was also angry with Rautio, records state, and multiple witnesses told law enforcement that Wittal had previously said he wanted the man dead.
In late May, Wittal sought Crone’s approval to “commit an act of violence against” Rautio, to which Crone agreed. On the day of the murder, she called Wittal to tell him that the victim had arrived at her residence.
According to court documents, Toman drove Rautio, Wittal and Hansen to an area off Foothills Road east of Creston. Once there, Wittal allegedly stabbed Rautio multiple times. Hansen also punched Rautio and provided Wittal with a second knife after Wittal lost the first one. Wittal then stabbed Rautio in the neck.
Witnesses told law enforcement that they later saw Wittal burn the clothing he was wearing at the time of the murder. He also tried to burn his cell phone, according to court papers.
On June 13, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office received the report of a murder near Creston. Upon further investigation they found Rautio’s body in a creek near Peters Ridge. All four suspects were apprehended within a few days.
Security during the July 7 arraignment was noticeably tight, with a metal detector set up at the front door of the Flathead County Justice Center. During the course of the arraignment before Judge Robert Allison, there were at least six sheriff’s deputies in the courtroom.
Wittal is being held on a $500,000 bail, while Crone, Hansen and Toman are each being held on a $100,000 bail. All four remain incarcerated in the Flathead County Detention Center.
Wittal is being represented by public defenders Greg Rapkoch and Jessica Polan. Crone has retained attorney Jason Bryan. Lane Bennett represents Hansen. And Toman has secured attorney Sean Hinchey. Deputy County Attorney John Donovan is prosecuting all four suspects.
If convicted, all four suspects could face maximum sentences of life imprisonment or the death penalty.
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