HAMILTON – A Hamilton man was charged with deliberate homicide Friday after a fight provoked by a night of drinking Black Velvet and Diet Pepsi in a downtown motel left his common-law wife brain dead.
Douglas Charles Reynolds, 47, is being held in the Ravalli County jail on $250,000 bail.
His common-law wife, 40-year-old Jessica Hawkins, was removed from life support and died in a Missoula hospital late Tuesday.
According to an affidavit filed by Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright, Reynolds told Hamilton police that he “freaked out” when he awoke in Deffy’s Motel “to find a dead wife” in the room on Sunday, Nov. 11.
In a series of interviews, Reynolds told an escalating version of the events that transpired during two nights of drinking and fighting in the motel room – “arguments that caused enough noise and commotion that the motel owner purposely did not place any patrons in the rooms adjoining defendant and Ms. Hawkins on the night of (Saturday) Nov. 10,” according to the affidavit.
At 9:25 a.m. on Sunday, Ravalli County 9-1-1 received a phone call from the motel’s front desk, reporting an unresponsive female.
Hawkins was found on the floor of the motel room, just outside the bathroom door, breathing but unresponsive. “Red-colored vomit had dried in a flow pattern from her mouth down her cheek,” the affidavit said.
Reynolds initially claimed that Hawkins had no alcohol in her system, but after a short time admitted that she had been drinking the previous night. Blood tests at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in Hamilton revealed a 0.342 BAC.
Reynolds’ own BAC was 0.252.
The emergency room examination found that Hawkins had suffered a traumatic brain injury, and had a large subdural hematoma and swelling of the brain – as well as other bruises and injuries on her chest, biceps, hips and legs. She was airlifted to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, where doctors determined that she was clinically brain dead.
At first, Reynolds told Hamilton police officers that his wife “becomes volatile” when she drinks, and had yelled at and hit him with a phone book. He had “simply taken control of Ms. Hawkins by the arms and held her down,” according to the affidavit’s retelling.
Later, though, Reynolds admitted that he “snapped,” and hit Hawkins in the left temple with his right elbow. He also admitted hitting her with an open hand on the right side of her head, and then giving her another drink, the affidavit said.
Reynolds claimed that he went to bed at 11:30 p.m., while Hawkins watched television. He said that he found her on the floor, snoring, in the morning. He went to the front desk, he said, when she wouldn’t wake up.
In a subsequent interview, though, Reynolds said that he had moved an unconscious Hawkins from the bed to the floor, believing that she would “smother” in the bed. He went to the front office to call 9-1-1, he said, because he “freaked out.”
After learning that Hawkins was brain dead, Hamilton police officers returned to the downtown motel to secure what was now a homicide scene, Fulbright said in his affidavit. However, the motel staff had already cleaned the room.
The housecleaners reported finding a pillow case with blood on it, but said it had already been laundered. During a later search of the room, an officer found a pillow that appeared to have a fluid stain on it.
Officers also located and seized an empty vodka bottle, a broken pair of women’s glasses, a men’s coat with what appeared to be blood stains on the sleeves, a telephone book and two 2-liter bottles of Diet Pepsi. Additionally they observed a Black Velvet whiskey bottle in plain view in Reynolds’ vehicle.
Fulbright said further neurological testing was conducted to confirm that Hawkins was brain dead on Tuesday and she was removed from life support. The Montana State Medical Examiner’s Office will be conducting an autopsy and examination.
On Friday, Reynolds was charged with felony deliberate homicide. His bail has been set at $250,000 and, if released, he must wear an alcohol monitoring device. Reynolds is set to appear in Ravalli County District Court on Dec. 5 or 6 at 9 a.m.
Reporter Julia Cummings can be reached at 363-3300 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.