A district court judge has rejected one defendant’s plea deal and reset him for trial on charges that he and his co-defendant decapitated a man they met at a Billings casino in 2017.
Yellowstone County District Judge Gregory Todd rejected the plea agreement for Jeffery Glen Haverty, 35, on Friday, allowing Haverty to withdraw his earlier admission and instead plead not guilty to deliberate homicide.
On Wednesday, the judge set Haverty’s case for trial in April.
Haverty and Donald Ray Cherry met victim Myron Knight at the Montana Lil’s Casino on King Avenue West on Oct. 26, 2017. The three prepared to leave and visit a transient camp nearby when Knight asked a casino employee to hold his $120 in winnings, believing Haverty and Cherry might rob him, the employee told police.
Later at a campsite near 32nd Street West and Gabel Road, where Haverty and Cherry had been staying, the two men both took a turn cutting off Knight’s head, according to charges. An autopsy indicated Knight had been beaten as well.
Haverty reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in June, the week before he was set to go to trial. The deal called for jointly recommending a 50-year prison sentence, and it required Haverty to give an interview to detectives and testify against Cherry at trial.
Haverty might have directed detectives to the knife used to kill the 41-year-old Knight. A knife uncovered in the location Haverty described has been sent to the Montana State Crime Lab for testing.
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The type of plea agreement used in Haverty’s case was a take-it-or-leave-it agreement, which would have locked the judge in to the 50-year sentence attorneys recommended and not permitted him to issue a different sentence.
Todd, the judge, told attorneys he was uncomfortable with the recommendation.
“He didn’t feel it was a long enough sentence, even with his cooperation,” said Senior Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Brett Linneweber.
Defense attorney Lisa Bazant did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cherry, 33, has reached no plea agreement and remains set for trial in January.
In addition to deliberate homicide, Cherry faces felony charges of evidence tampering, witness tampering, and intimidation. Prosecutors say he hid the victim's remains and belongings, and tried to intimidate his girlfriend and tell her that her memory was incorrect during conversations from the jail. Cherry's girlfriend had previously told police both Cherry and Haverty killed Knight, according to charges.