POLSON – The picture on the T-shirts shows a beaming teenager on the day of his 2004 high school graduation.
Friends and relatives of Laurence Kenmille, whose likeness is on the shirts, wore them Thursday morning when the man accused of raping and drowning Kenmille in May pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide and sexual intercourse without consent.
Melvin Madplume Jr. appeared before Lake County District Court Judge Kim Christopher, who accepted the plea and granted a motion from Madplume’s lawyer, Noel K. Larivee, barring attorneys on both sides from discussing the case with the media.
In court documents filed Sept. 23, Lake County Attorney Mitch Young charged that Madplume, 29, had raped and murdered the 28-year-old Kenmille in a private room at Wild Horse Hot Springs outside the town of Hot Springs on or about May 26.
A dozen of Kenmille’s friends and family members watched the proceeding, including Kenmille’s father, Allan, who declined to comment afterward.
Jessie McDonald, who said she was best friends with Laurence Kenmille’s widow, Terry Hewankorn, said the victim was the father of four children and a member of the Elmo-based Chief Cliff Drum group.
“He was one of the greatest singers I’ve ever heard,” McDonald said.
She wore one of the shirts, which showed a smiling Kenmille on his graduation day from Two Eagle River School in Pablo more than nine years ago. “In loving memory,” it said above the picture, and “La” below it.
“La” was Kenmille’s nickname, McDonald said.
Court documents filed by Young say Madplume, Kenmille and a third male were partying at the hot springs on the day Kenmille allegedly drowned in a hot tub in Room 4.
Madplume maintained that Kenmille had fallen and hit his head, but law enforcement was suspicious from the start.
Sanders County coroner Kathy Harris told Lake County Undersheriff Dan Yonkin that the injuries she observed – multiple contusions to both the front and back of Kenmille’s head, abrasions on his face and nose, a large, deep gash on his right arm extending from the elbow to the wrist, and multiple bruises on the front of both shins – were not consistent with a single fall.
An autopsy at the Montana State Crime Lab determined Kenmille’s death was due to drowning, not a fall.
Medical examiner Willie Kemp also noted Kenmille’s anus was dilated and showed two lacerations. An internal examination showed bruising in the rectum.
“Dr. Kemp found that the cause of death was drowning and the manner of death was homicidal violence,” Young said in his court filings.
The county attorney said law enforcement had also interviewed another male who alleges that Madplume had taken him to Wild Horse Hot Springs a week earlier and made unwanted sexual advances on him.
Young’s document says Madplume “began touching (the man’s) leg and crotch,” and when the man rebuffed the alleged advances and tried to leave, “the defendant told him to get back in and pushed him into the tub. This happened several times” before the man was able to escape.
The man, identified only by his initials, did not report the incident to law enforcement or tell anyone else out of embarrassment, the document says. But when he learned Kenmille had died at the same hot springs while with Madplume several days later, he told the story to Kenmille’s family, who informed the sheriff’s office.
Madplume, who is from Polson, denied having any sexual interest in Kenmille when Yonkin re-interviewed him, and “expressed surprise about the anal lacerations and bruising,” the document states. Madplume also denied having ever engaged in homosexual activity, but said he could not remember whether he made a pass at a different male at the hot springs the weekend before “because he blacked out when he got drunk.”
When Yonkin asked Madplume if he would consent to a buccal swab to obtain a DNA standard, Madplume “stated he was being railroaded and terminated the interview.”
Madplume turned himself in on Sept. 26, three days after an arrest warrant was issued.
Judge Christopher set a Jan. 27, 2014 trial date and scheduled an omnibus hearing for 9 a.m. on Nov. 21.
Larivee suggested Madplume’s bond hearing be moved to a non-law and order day, saying, “I could see it going two hours.” Christopher indicated she would set such a date after coordinating her schedule with the county attorney’s, most likely sometime after Oct. 14.
Young said he had no objection to Larivee’s motion to bar attorneys from discussing the case with the media, but asked that his office be able to answer questions about “where we are in the process” if asked about upcoming court dates, which Christopher said was fine.
Larivee also asked that his client be identified as Melvin Madplume Jr. The suffix was not included in the initial court documents.
Deliberate homicide carries maximum penalties of death, life in prison or imprisonment of not more than 100 years. Maximum penalties for the sexual intercourse without consent charge are life imprisonment or imprisonment for 100 years, and a $50,000 fine.