A Flathead County jury on Jan. 4 heard opening statements from defense attorneys representing Bradley Jay Hillious, who is standing trial for his wife’s deliberate homicide after claiming she fell down a flight of stairs at their Kalispell home.
Hillious has pleaded not guilty to a single felony count of deliberate homicide for the December 2020 death of Amanda Hillious. Judge Robert Allison is presiding over the trial, which began Jan. 3 with jury selection and opening statements from prosecutors, who said evidence presented in the coming days and weeks will prove the victim’s injuries could not have occurred during an accidental fall.
On the second day of trial, however, it was the defense team’s opportunity to frame their version of events.
Livingston-based defense attorney Jami Rebsom said evidence and witness testimony will show that law enforcement rushed to judgment when they arrested her client, and that Amanda received negligent medical attention from emergency medical responders. Moreover, she described Amanda’s father-in-law, who lived at the home with the family and reportedly committed suicide shortly after the victim’s death, as an “explosive” figure who shouldn’t be discounted from the equation.
“First, we know there’s a rush to judgement,” Rebsom said of the initial investigation. “Mr. Hillious is considered suspect number one before they ever even leave the house.”
Rebsom also argued that her client was rendering medical aid to his late wife when law enforcement and emergency medical providers responded to the scene. After their arrival, Rebsom said, the emergency responders provided negligent and delayed care while incorrectly affixing a LUCAS device, which provides automated chest compressions, to Amanda’s body.
“You will see on (the body camera footage) that Amanda goes 2 minutes and 50 seconds before they even get the LUCAS device operating properly,” Rebsom said. “You’ll see on this video that she doesn’t get any oxygen and no breaths and no airway. Then at the 2 minute and 50 second mark, we see that LUCAS device puncturing her upper abdomen. You’re going to see puncturing where her liver is.”
“The real evidence will show medical negligence,” Rebsom added.
Following opening statements, the jury heard from the first witnesses in a trial slated to span three weeks, including the couple’s 6-year-old son who testified that he heard his mother fall down the stairs, then heard his father run down the stairs, and observed that a portion of his mother’s ear was missing. He said he heard Amanda tell Bradley to “stop.”
Amanda’s 12-year-old son, who is not biologically related to the defendant, also provided testimony, bluntly telling jurors “Brad killed my mom.” The eldest son said he heard Bradley and Amanda arguing before he saw him dragging and hitting her.
The defense countered that the sons were asked leading questions during their investigative interviews with law enforcement, and that the older son’s recollection of events was influenced by Amanda’s mother, with whom he now lives in Oregon.
Flathead County Sheriff’s Deputy Patrick McGauley, who was dispatched to the Hillious residence on Dec. 15, 2020, while wearing a body camera, told jurors that when he arrived on the scene he found an unresponsive female at the bottom of the stairs along with the defendant..
McGauley, whose body-camera shows him providing CPR to Amanda before emergency medical responders arrived and took over her care, said he observed a laceration on the side of her head, as well as bruising to her eyes, “apparent head injuries” and blood stains on the ground next to her.
“They did not appear consistent with a fall down the stairs,” McGauley said.
Rebsom argued that since McGauley had limited medical knowledge other than CPR, he was not qualified to judge whether or not Amanda’s injuries were consistent with an accidental fall.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. on Jan. 5.
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