Montana Inmate Freed After Murder Conviction Overturned

Freddie Joe Lawrence walked out of prison Tuesday afternoon with two members of the Montana Innocence Project

By Associated Press

HELENA – Montana State Prison inmate Freddie Joe Lawrence, whose conviction for a 1994 murder near Helena was overturned last week, walked out of prison Tuesday afternoon with two members of the Montana Innocence Project.

District Judge Kathy Seeley on Friday vacated the convictions of Lawrence and Paul Jenkins in the death of Donna Meagher, who was kidnapped from a family-owned casino in Montana City and killed west of Helena.

DNA evidence on a rope found at the crime scene matched David Wayne Nelson, who is serving life in prison for killing Beverly Giannonatti, 79, and her son, Greg Giannonatti, 57, in Deer Lodge in October 2015.

The attorney general’s office is still deciding whether to again charge Lawrence and Jenkins in Meagher’s murder while it also investigates Nelson, spokesman Eric Sell said.

Seeley’s order set several conditions for Lawrence, 56, who will live in Missoula in housing set up by the Montana Innocence Project.

He is subject to electronic monitoring for up to six weeks until a hearing can be held on the matter. He also must not use alcohol, must stay out of bars and cannot use any drugs that are not prescribed to him. He cannot have any weapons, must undergo a mental health evaluation and follow any recommendations and look for volunteer opportunities or find a job.

Jenkins, 64, who has been at the prison infirmary in Lewistown, was to be picked up by family. Department of Corrections records indicated he was still at the infirmary on Tuesday afternoon. Jenkins will live with his daughter and has similar prohibitions with regard to alcohol, drugs and weapons.

The men were in prison since their sentencing in May 1995.