Suspect Accused of Whitefish Killing Extradited from Texas

Xavier Chenault was charged with negligent homicide in November, nearly four months after he allegedly assaulted a man behind a Whitefish bar

By Andy Viano

The 22-year-old man accused of causing a man’s death during a late-night altercation outside a Whitefish bar has been taken into custody in Flathead County following his extradition from Texas.

Xavier Chenault was arrested in Arlington, Texas and booked into the Tarrant County Jail on Nov. 9, according to the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, two weeks before he was charged with negligent homicide in Flathead County. Chenault served more than a month in jail in Texas for evading arrest and resisting arrest before being extradited to Flathead County over the weekend.

Chenault was booked into the Flathead County Detention Center on Jan. 3. He is being held on $100,000 bail and is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Jan. 21. Chenault’s arrest warrant listed his hometown as Sacramento, California.

Court documents filed in Flathead County District Court on Nov. 23 accuse Chenault of slapping Whitefish resident Steven Speer in an alley behind the Whitefish VFW Bar and Grill in the early morning hours of July 30. The blow knocked Speer to the ground, causing “obvious head injuries,” according to the Whitefish Police Department. Speer was transported from the scene to a local hospital where he died on Aug. 2.

Charging documents say Chenault and other witnesses first told investigators that Speer, who was intoxicated, had fallen. Follow-up interviews and security camera footage contradicted those stories, however, and showed the two men arguing before Chenault struck Speer in the head with an “open-handed slap” and Speer’s head hit the ground. Witnesses said Speer did not attempt to physically engage Chenault.

After the incident, Chenault allegedly texted with a witness and admitted to hitting Speer, later texting the same witness that he “barely touched him.”

Prosecutors did not initially file charges against Chenault but opted to do so once an autopsy was completed at the state crime lab. That autopsy revealed Speer “died as a result of blunt force injuries to the head.” Speer’s blood-alcohol content at the time of his initial treatment was .268, more the three times the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle.

If convicted of negligent homicide, Chenault faces up to 20 years in prison.

andy@flatheadbeacon.com

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