Whitefish Man Sentenced to 30 Years in Apartment Complex Murder

A Flathead County jury in January convicted Steven Justin Hedrick of a felony count of deliberate homicide after he shot his neighbor during a January 2023 altercation over noise levels

By Maggie Dresser
Steven Justin Hedrick appears in Flathead County District Court in Kalispell on Jan. 16, 2024. He is charged with a felony count of deliberate homicide. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The 33-year-old man convicted of fatally shooting his neighbor at a Whitefish apartment complex during an altercation over noise levels in January of 2023 has been sentenced to 30 years in the Montana State Prison with no time suspended and no parole restrictions.

A Flathead County jury in January 2024 found Steven Justin Hedrick guilty of a felony count of deliberate homicide in the death of Jeff Brookshire.

On Jan. 24, 2023, a confrontation occurred between Hedrick and Brookshire after Brookshire attempted making contact with his ex-girlfriend, who also lived in the building, in the early morning hours, which woke up the neighbors at Locals Monthly Lodging in Whitefish. When Brookshire began yelling and “posturing” toward Hedrick, he raised a revolver, pulled the hammer back and aimed it at the victim’s head. Brookshire then placed his hand on the barrel of the gun while it was aimed at his face, and he was shot through the mouth.

Flathead County District Court Judge Amy Eddy imposed the sentence at an April 4 hearing, delivering a 30-year sentence for a felony count of deliberate homicide with no time suspended. Hedrick was also given credit for the 437 days he had already served in custody in the Flathead County Detention Center.

Judge Eddy cited the defendant’s failure to be a responsible firearm owner, his criminal history, the victim’s mother’s testimony and his behavior in jail.

“The conduct constituting the offense was principally the conduct of the defendant, and the defendant’s participation was not minor in this incident,” Judge Eddy said. “The only other participant in these events was the victim. While the victim did reach out and grab the defendant’s gun, the defendant had already pointed the gun at the victim’s head, cocked the hammer, checked to make sure the hammer was cocked and placed his finger on the trigger by the time the victim then approached him.”

Hedrick’s attorney, Benjamin Darrow, had filed a motion for a new trial the morning before the sentencing hearing. Judge Eddy denied the motion, citing untimeliness because it was filed beyond the 30-day post-conviction deadline.

The court removed Hedrick’s previous attorney who had served as his counsel throughout the trial in February due to her inactive status by the State Bar of Montana. According to the order, she had been placed on inactive status on Feb. 9, 2024 for failing to comply with mandatory continuing legal education.

Darrow took over Hedrick’s case in March.

Flathead County Attorney Travis Ahner recommended an 80-year sentence with no time suspended, citing a history of violence, a lack of remorse and a defiant and racist attitude.

Of the 437 days Hedrick spent in custody, he was sanctioned for 100 days for harassing detention officers and inmates and he was placed on an administrative lockdown for attempting to manipulate his jail cell lock with an eating utensil.

According to Ahner, he also called a detention officer racial slurs.

Ahner said Hedrick has multiple other convictions in other jurisdictions, including two felonies, which are grounds for not possessing firearms.

“He shouldn’t have had that weapon – the murder weapon in his possession on the night of this homicide,” Ahner said. “But Mr. Hedrick makes his own rules, and he took that situation into his own hands.”

Ahner also showed exhibits of phone call transcripts between Hedrick and an unidentified individual from December 2023 and January 2024. Hedrick was recorded making derogatory comments about law enforcement, detention staff and Judge Eddy.

Judge Eddy read the transcript aloud to the court where Hedrick is recorded saying “all cops need to be shot.”

Darrow argued that his client believed he was protecting himself on the night of the homicide and he said it was “very hard for people in jail to be pleased with officers.”

Additionally, Darrow recommended his sentence be at the “lower end of the range” and he asked for a 10-year sentence. He also requested that Hedrick be exempt from the mandatory minimum sentence.

Judge Eddy said the exemption did not apply to Hedrick because he was over 18 years old, his mental capacity was not impaired at the time of the incident.

Prior to the sentencing, Ahner read a victim impact statement from Brookshire’s mother, who did not want Judge Eddy to impose the death penalty.

“I pray that this court, Honorable Judge Eddy, will show mercy on Mr. Hedrick,” she wrote. “I pray that the death penalty not be sought for his actions … Mr. Hedrick, I pray you find some peace and happiness in life and learn the value of life and the effect the loss of life has on undeserving people.”

Hedrick did not testify to the court at the hearing but described the incident as “a tragedy.”

Hedrick was remanded to the custody of the Department of Corrections.