A 48-year-old man convicted of killing his brother-in-law the day after being released from prison last year was sentenced Monday to life in prison.
District Judge Russell Fagg sentenced Joel White for the murder of Gary Temple last June 25 outside a house on South 31st Street. Fagg did not put a parole restriction on White as requested by prosecutors, but he noted that White would not be eligible for parole until he is almost 80 years old.
Fagg said he imposed the life sentence because of White's lengthy criminal history, which includes convictions for voluntary manslaughter, attempted rape, assault and drug dealing.
"You are a dangerous person, and you killed somebody in cold blood," Fagg told White.
White declined to speak before he was sentenced. His sister, Diane Temple, tearfully confronted her brother from the witness stand, saying she lost her home and car after her brother killed her husband.
"Gary didn't deserve to die like that," she said.
According to testimony at trial in March, White stabbed Temple, 53, seven times, including a fatal wound that severed Temple's jugular vein. Witnesses said Temple was backing away from White during the incident.
White claimed he acted in self-defense by using a knife on the larger man when challenged to fight. The jury deliberated for six hours before convicting White of deliberate homicide.
His court-appointed attorney, Chief Public Defender Penny Strong, did not ask the judge for a specific sentence Monday, but instead asked Fagg to balance justice with mercy. Strong said the conviction will be appealed to the Montana Supreme Court.
Deputy County Attorney David Carter described White as a predator with a long history of victimizing society.
"You have in your courtroom here today a killer," Carter said. "Not someone who killed — a killer."
Fagg also imposed a 10-year concurrent sentence for use of a weapon.
White was released from a private state prison in Shelby last June 24 and returned to Billings by bus. Diane Temple said at trial that White showed up at her residence without notice the next day.
She left with White when her husband returned home from work. The two men had a long history of animosity between them, she said.
A few hours later, Gary Temple, who worked as a security guard at Billings Clinic, found his wife and brother-in-law at an apartment a few blocks away. After a loud argument with Diane Temple, Gary Temple made a verbal challenge to White and began walking toward him.
Several witnesses testified that the two men met in the front yard and began to fight. Gary Temple appeared to be backing away, the witnesses said, and White appeared to be the aggressor. During the fight, Gary Temple grabbed his neck, stumbled and fell to the ground, the witnesses said.
White, who also uses the last name Seminole, told jurors that his brother-in-law fell into the knife during the fight.
Diane Temple and White fled the scene of the stabbing in her vehicle, but they were stopped a few blocks away by a police officer. Diane Temple said at trial she fled under threats from her brother.
On Monday, Diane Temple tearfully told White that he needs to take responsibility for the death of her husband, who she said helped her rejoin society after she spent 12 years in prison. Diane Temple was convicted of robbery in 1987 for her involvement in the robbery, kidnapping and murder of John Etchemendy Jr.
"I know what it's like to be in prison, and I know what it's like to be a victim now," Diane Temple said.
Contact Greg Tuttle at email@example.com or 657-1320.