32 year-old Staryal Dedrick Johnston, the man accused of strangling his wife to death in front of his children early in September, appeared in Missoula District Court before Judge Shane Vannatta for his official arraignment on a charge of deliberate homicide.

At his initial appearance on September 4, Deputy County Attorney Brian Lowney addressed the court on the matter of bail.

“The state is asking for the court set a $ 1 million dollar bail here, and that's largely based on the nature of this offense but also the effects of the offense, as the court can see from the affidavit,” said Lowney. “This involves Mr. Johnston committing a brutal murder of his partner with a ligature strangulation.”

Lowney then added the mitigating factors in his bond argument.

“Additionally, this crime was committed in front of his children, and I worry to think about how law enforcement might have become aware of this were it not for the bravery of the 11 year old child that was in the house, and so the state feels that Mr. Johnston is simply too dangerous to remain in the community.”

At his District Court arraignment on Thursday, Judge Vannatta addressed the defendant.

“Mr. Johnston, I just want to confirm that you have had an opportunity to review your rights with your attorney Miss McKnight,” asked Judge Vannatta.

“Yes, sir,” said Johnston.

“Do you have any questions about your rights? And have you had an opportunity to review the charging document that has charged you with deliberate homicide, a felony punishable by life imprisonment or not less than 10 or more than 100 years in the Montana State Prison? Have you reviewed that with your attorney, Ms. McKnight?”

“Yes, sir,” he said.

“Do you have any questions about the charges and the penalty?” asked the judge.

“No,” said Johnston.

“Do you wish to enter a plea?” said Judge Vannatta.

“Not guilty,” said Johnston.

“The court then records your plea of not guilty as a matter of record and I'll turn to you Ms. McKnight for proposed date for Omnibus,” said the judge.

“Yes, Judge, I think four weeks would be sufficient time at the moment,” said Ms. McKnight.

“The court will then set Omnibus for October 21st  at 1:30 p.m.” said the judge.

An omnibus hearing is a pretrial hearing, and is usually held soon after a defendant's arraignment. The main purpose of the hearing is to determine the evidence, including testimony and evidence seized at the time of arrest.

Johnston’s bail was continued at $1 million and he was remanded back to the Missoula County Jail.

 

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