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LOCAL&STATE

Billings gazette

Thursday, January 25, 2018 |

Thursday, January 25, 2018

| billingsgazette.com

| sECTIOn B

Rapist
accepts
plea deal

Judge declares 10 year
sentence ‘too lenient’
PHOEBE TOLLEFSON

ptollefson@billingsgazette.com

you have to expand the population to fill those jobs. It’s a race
between wages and housing
prices. When housing prices get
too high relative to wages, it’s
that much harder for the economy to grow because you can’t
grow your population.”
Ward said Missoula is in the
top 3 percent of unaffordable
counties nationwide when comparing the ratio of median home
price to median area income.
“Certainly something that
we have to be worried about in
Missoula and Bozeman is that
the ratio of median home value
to median income is at Seattle
levels,” he said.
Ward found that the median home value in Missoula,
$273,200, is 32 percent higher
than the U.S. average but 20
percent lower than the average
in the West. Rents in Missoula
are relatively affordable, as the
median gross rent of $818 is 17
percent lower than the U.S. average, and 42 percent lower than
the average in the western United
States.
Ward said addressing housing prices is a complicated issue

A Billings judge reluctantly
sentenced a man to 10 years
in prison in a child rape case
Wednesday, making clear he felt
boxed in by the terms of a plea
deal he thought too lenient.
Yellowstone County District
Court Judge Don Harris sentenced Richard Thomas Slovarp,
46, on a single count of sexual intercourse
without consent.
The maximum
penalty for the
charge is life in
prison.
The sentence
— 30 years at the
Montana State
slovarp
Prison with 20
years suspended — was outlined
in a plea deal that required the
judge to either accept it or reject
it and set a trial. Straying from
the recommended sentence was
not an option, Harris said.
The judge said the only reason for accepting the deal was
to avoid trial, which would further traumatize the victim and
her family. Slovarp raped an
8-year-old while babysitting her
sometime between May 2015 and
February 2016, charges state.
“Without that consideration,
this court would reject as entirely too lenient and inappropriate this plea agreement and
sentencing recommendation,”
Harris said.
Slovarp accepted the plea deal
in August, when prosecutors
dropped three additional felony
charges in the case: sexual abuse
of children, sexual assault, and
a second count of sexual intercourse without consent.
Before handing down the sentence, Harris read portions of a
report evaluating Slovarp and his
risk for re-offending.
“He classified Slovarp as a situational, sexually and morally
indiscriminate child molester,”
the judge read.
The report indicated more victims would be likely.
The report states that “Slovarp
engages a child in sexual conduct
because the child is available,
and it presents as something
new, novel and/or exciting,”
Harris read.
Prosecutor Julie Patten,
with the Yellowstone County

Please see hOusInG, Page B4

Please see sLOVarP, Page B4

CasEy PaGE, GAZETTE STAFF

FIrE On ICE
Billings firefighter robb Gersbach practices lifting himself out of the water during ice rescue training at riverfront Park on Wednesday. The
department holds the training for every firefighter once a year. The course covers self-rescue, use of a rescue sled, animal rescue and more.

Home prices have
doubled since 1990

IT IO N
LO C AL ED

In the same time frame,
Montanans’ wage
increases lag far behind
DAVID ERICKSON

boy
PAGE D1
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david.erickson@missoulian.com

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NFR
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Montana was an affordable
place to live three decades ago.
Things have changed.
Since 1990, housing prices in
Montana have more than doubled, adjusted for inflation. Only
Colorado, Oregon and Wyoming
have seen home prices statewide
appreciate more than Montana.
In that same time, Montana’s
median gross rent increased by
26 percent.
Housing costs have increased
more than income. Montana’s
median household income has
only increased by 21 percent
since 1990, and as a result, the
share of income devoted to housing has risen steadily.
Relative to 28 years ago,
low-income Montanans now
devote roughly 10 percent more
of their income to housing;
high-income Montanans devote
4 percent more.
That’s according to a new
study from the Bureau of Busi-

Montana com TANA UNTAMED PAGE C1
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birding trips

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2018 |
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RSDAY, JAN
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Coroner IDs
man killed at
jobsite

Shepherd
teacher
placed
on leave

SAM WILSON

swilson@billingsgazette.com

The Billings man who died
after an apparent accident at a
construction site on the city’s
South Side Tuesday has been
identified.
David Shepard, 39, died after a
large concrete column fell on him
while he was working at the former Labor Temple Hall, which is
undergoing renovations as part of
a Community Leadership & Development Inc. housing project.
He was identified by Yellowstone County Deputy Coroner
Rich Hoffman. His cause of
death has not yet been determined, Hoffman said Wednesday
morning.
County coroner Cliff Mahoney
added that the death was “without a doubt” accidental.
Shepard was an employee with
Billings-based Fisher Construction Inc., which is the general
contractor for the construction
project.
“It’s been very difficult, especially for the guys on-site,”
company co-owner and vice
president Brent Sumner said
Wednesday. “David was a good,
hardworking guy and he was
pretty well liked. It’s always hard
to lose a friend.”

surface
Allegations
conduct
of sexual mis
job
at previous
MAN

gsga
man@billin

zette.com

ol
High Scho
A Shepherd accused of sexwas
teacher who uct at his previous
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teaching job e leave and will be
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recommende provided by Shep
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mist for the BBER who wrote the
study, will present his findings
on Friday at the 2018 Economic
Outlook Seminar.
Ward said the high cost of
housing compared to wages
in Missoula could prevent the
economy from realizing its full
potential.
“Unemployment in Montana
and Missoula is very low (roughly
4 percent),” Ward explained. “If
you want to expand and grow,

Tours
FOR THE
Thursday,

Garryowen
g
in
t
c
e
r
r
u
s
Re

Please see shEPard, Page B4

GAZETTE STAFF

CLAIR JOHNSON

Bird family, who have hosted a
re-enactment of the battle since
the early 1990s. Cavalry School
attendees come from all over the
globe to be immersed in history
and live as a frontier cavalryman
as part of Custer’s Last Ride Adventure.
Attendees culminate their experience by portraying the U.S.
7th Cavalry in the re-enactment.
The Real Bird family hires young
men of all ages to act as Native
warriors in the production.
The Travel Channel’s crew
filmed the “Battle of Little Bighorn: Mysteries at the Museum”
during the 2017 re-enactment
and documented both the re-enGAZETTE STAFF
actment and the U.S. Cavalry
School on the Real Birds’ private Crow tribal members portraying sioux and Cheyenne warriors ride
through the Little Bighorn river during the real Bird reenactment near
Please see BIGhOrn, Page B4 Garryowen on Friday, June 23.

A criminal bankruptcy fraud
trial for a former Billings neurosurgeon has been postponed
to give the defense more time to
reach a plea deal.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters of Billings has reset a jury
trial for Dr. John Henry Schneider for April 9. The trial had been
set for Feb. 12. The judge previously continued the first trial

from Dec. 11.
Schneider pleaded not guilty
in October to five counts of
bankruptcy fraud for allegedly
lying to hide his assets after filing
for bankruptcy in 2014.
Meanwhile, Schneider and the
trustee in the bankruptcy appear
to have reached an agreement to
settle a complaint the trustee
filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court
against Schneider accusing the
doctor of breach of contract,

fraud and negligent misrepresentation.
Schneider’s defense attorney,
John E. Smith, of Missoula, said
in recent court records that more
time was needed to finalize details in a proposed plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
The prosecution provided the
defense about 28,000 pages of
discovery information and, after
having reviewed the documents,
the parties have been “actively

DISCOVELR
DIGITA
Volume 132,

Issue 268

COURTESY

Please see

BIrdInG,

Page C3

Golden-hoode
d
tanager

A group of
birders take
Merlin Birdi
part in a guid
ng Tours.
ed tour

OuTdOOrs
JusT FOr KId
s

in Veracruz

, Mexico, facili
tated by Mon
tana-based
company

Crustacean
is no shrimp
when it com
es to punch
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Oftenwe uset
hewords
or “shrimp
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thing that
is small or ribe some- to spea earers”and used the
weak.
r softer prey
claw ting
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.
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To crac
small does because an animal
outside is
with fibers
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to help prot wrapped
is weak.
shri
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quickly andmp flicks out its club during those punc
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with a
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Scientist
with nood may like to eat fried
punches or
would last
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les. The man
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manthat is very
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involved in plea negotiations,”
Smith said.
Schneider is charged with two
counts of false statements under
oath in relation to a bankruptcy
proceeding, two counts of concealment of assets and fraudulent transfer of assets. All of the
counts carry maximum penalties of five years in prison and a
$250,000 fine.
Please see TrIaL, Page B4

M
1

— Brett Frenc
h, french@billi
ngsgazette.
com

WINTER

ISSUE

2017

www.montanalandmaga

zine.com

WINTER 2017-2018

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U N TA M E D

| billings
gazette.com
| sECTIO
nC

His backgrou
Whether
ning a natu nd also includes runfowl in Mon it is watching wate
re-centered
rtourism
ley or layin tana’s Centennial Val- business and cons
g eyes on a
ulting.
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rare bird species in a Sout
hobby, but a crazily fast growing
two former h American jung
plenty
le,
to share theirnonprofit heads wan en’t gone internati of people havt haven’t
onal
passion for
Steve Hoff
traveled inter birding or
birding.
man
and
nati
,
form
it’s importa
onally,
tive director
er execunt
started Mer of Montana Audubon one familiar with to have somethe area that
Tours a year lin Birding & Natu , ensure their safe
can
re
ty,
business offerago in Bozeman. The hear them say ‘wow” he said. “To
’ as they gaze
international s a mix of local and on a bird they’ve
never
is as good
taking care birding adventur
as it gets for seen before
es,
of
logis
me.
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tics and trave
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while also
e launchin
g,
ground cons supporting on-the-l trips to Red Rock Merlin has led
Lakes Nati
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onal
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and bird consmy career in wildlife Mexico, for the and Veracruz,
has been indo ervation, a lot of that raptor migration world’s largest
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raising,” Hoffoffice or doing fund
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to spend
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plan
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re
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and
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s in advance.
my passion
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for offer
peop
about a doze They expect to
Joining Hoff le.”
is Steve Eshb man in the business trips in the next twon international
years, inclu
ecutive direc augh, the former ex- ing Costa Rica,
dNica
door Sciencetor of Montana Out- Columbia, Nepal, ragua, Peru,
India,
School,
and Guatema
nonprofit
la. They are Uganda
in Boze- a
cuss
also dising trips
man focused
to Alaska,
Texas and
Florida,
programminon
Arizona, alon
g with
for child g
more Mon
ren.
tana tours.

Neurosurgeon’s fraud trial postponed until April
cjohnson@billingsgazette.com

25, 2018

Fledgling co
mpany offers
expe

tom.kuglin

Little Bighorn on the small screen
The Travel Channel’s popular
show, “Mysteries at the Museum,” will feature the Battle of
the Little Bighorn on Thursday,
Jan. 25.
Show host Don Wildman takes
a look at General Custer and the
Battle of Little Bighorn, which
took place June 25-26, 1876, near
what is now Crow Agency.
According to travelchannel.
com, Wildman “climbs onto the
saddle to investigate what really
happened on the day of the biggest defeat in U.S. military history. He highlights the iconic figures who took part in the historic
battle and examines the legacy of
this infamous encounter.”
For research, Wildman turned
to Keith Herrin, owner of U.S.
Cavalry School, and the Real

January

birds

TOM KUGL
IN

GAZETTE STAFF

LARR
and imports
manufactures n rifles and
Weatherby
guns
ty of bolt actio
a wide varie c and over/under shot t
semiautomati for hunting and targe
primarily used
shooting.

MATT HOFF

CasEy PaGE, GAZETTE STAFF

Crews work on constructing yWCa Billings’ Gateway Vista affordable
housing project at 909 Wyoming ave. in september 2017.
ness and Economic Research
at the University of Montana,
which found that housing price
increases have largely eliminated
Montana’s affordability advantage relative to the United States
and other parts of the West.
The problem hasn’t gotten
better this decade. Since 2011,
housing prices across Montana
have risen 40 percent while
wages have increased only 10
percent. Bryce Ward, an econo-

MON TA NA

Contact Tom

800-34

M
1

today for rate

s & deadlin

or bigsky@ 7-0898
montanaland

es.

magazine.co

m

RANCH TONE
ON THEHYELLOWS
30 &2231& 23
SAWTOOT
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