BOZEMAN — A woman who was shot in the back of the head on the night her housemate was killed by the woman’s estranged husband told him she forgave him during his sentencing hearing Tuesday.
Ashley Van Hemert said when she was in the intensive care unit after being shot on Jan. 6, 2018, she wrote on her pillows: “If I die, you must forgive the man.”
District Judge Holly Brown sentenced Joseph “Paul” DeWise, 49, of Belgrade, to 220 years in prison without parole for killing his estranged wife, Lauren Walder DeWise, and for trying to kill Van Hemert.
He also must pay more than $25,000 in restitution and register as a violent offender.
Van Hemert’s mother and siblings testified that they, too, forgave DeWise, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.
“I say I forgive you,” Ashley’s mother, Linda Van Hemert said. “I cannot live with the anger and stay focused on that. You’re not worth it. I’m going to stay focused on complete healing of my daughter.”
Van Hemert’s brothers, Terril and Caleb, both said they would like to see DeWise sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Terril Van Hemert said he wanted to hate DeWise, but he said he has to extend forgiveness.
Ashley’s sister, Carissa Van Hemert, apologized to DeWise for the things she said to him during his trial.
“I forgive you. I can’t imagine how deeply you were hurting to handle this the way you did,” she told DeWise.
During DeWise’s trial in December, his son testified that when he was 15 his father took him to a Belgrade home where his stepmother was living. He said he followed his father upstairs where his father shot Van Hemert in one room and Lauren DeWise in another. He said his father told him to get rid of the gun.
Paul DeWise’s daughter testified that he woke her up the next morning and said he’d done something bad. She said he confessed to shooting Lauren and then they went to church.
Prosecutors said Paul and Lauren DeWise were scheduled to meet Jan. 7, 2018, to talk about their divorce.
Paul DeWise testified on his own behalf at trial, saying prosecutors mischaracterized some of his statements throughout the investigation and “that’s why whoever did this is still out there.”
Ashley Van Hemert wrapped up her testimony Tuesday by telling DeWise: “I feel down the road, definitely no time in the near future, … I would be open to writing with you and hearing how you are doing. I don’t want you to write and tell me of your innocence and tell me how you didn’t commit this crime.”
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