POLSON – A stabbing death here over the weekend marked the second time in just four months a person in Lake County has been attacked and killed by someone wielding a knife.
And that doesn’t count a third stabbing homicide in the same period where the victim worked in Lake County, but the murder occurred just over the line in Sanders County.
Deputy Lake County Attorney Jessica Cole-Hodgkinson laid out the alleged details of the latest knife attack in court documents filed Monday.
Those documents charged Makueeyapee Whitford, 32, of Browning with deliberate homicide. His bail has been set at $1 million.
Dead is 26-year-old John Pierre Jr. of Polson. An autopsy revealed Pierre was stabbed once through his upper sternum near the base of his neck.
The blow nicked Pierre’s aorta and pulmonary artery and caused Pierre to bleed to death internally, court papers said.
Cole-Hodgkinson said Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal police officers Don Bell and Ben Asencio responded to noise complaints at a party going on in the 1600 block of First Street East in Polson at approximately 4 a.m. Saturday.
“As they approached the party, they were informed that a stabbing had also just been reported at that location,” Cole-Hodgkinson said.
Pierre was taken to St. Joseph Medical Center, located just three blocks north of the scene, where he was pronounced dead.
Several witnesses told the officers the stabbing allegedly went down like this, according to the affidavit:
Some people were outside the residence where the party was taking place. Two of them, Adrian Afterbuffalo and Carmellia Kenmille, were sitting in a vehicle talking and listening to music.
When they turned the music down, Pierre approached the vehicle and loudly asked, “Where the (expletive) did the music go?”
Derek Hewankorn, who was also outside the vehicle, told officers he saw Whitford approach Pierre at that point.
“The defendant – who had been belligerent with several other individuals at the party earlier in the night – raised his arm toward Pierre,” the affidavit alleges. “Hewankorn heard a thump and saw the defendant strike Pierre in the neck or upper chest. Then, as Hewankorn watched, the defendant closed the folding knife in his hands.”
Hewankorn saw blood on the victim, the document goes on, and realized Pierre had been stabbed, not hit.
Kenmille told officers she did not see Whitford strike or stab Pierre, but saw Pierre collapse to the ground near the vehicle. Kenmille then exited the passenger side of the vehicle, and Whitford allegedly climbed in the back seat.
“Hewankorn heard the defendant tell Afterbuffalo that they needed to go because he (the defendant) had just stabbed Pierre,” the affidavit says.
Hewankorn used his own knife to slash a rear tire on the vehicle as it was leaving.
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Police began searching for a “metallic, four-door passenger vehicle with a flat rear tire” and at about 5 a.m., Polson Assistant Police Chief Clint Cottle spied one matching that description at a Polson motel.
Cottle was joined by Polson Police Officer Rick Shoening and CSKT Officer T.J. Haynes, and they contacted Whitford in his room.
“The defendant wholly denied having been at the party – he told officers that he had been at KwaTaqNuk (Resort) that night,” the affidavit says.
Haynes took a picture of Whitford and returned to the scene of the party and stabbing, where several partygoers confirmed that Whitford had been present there. Haynes informed Cottle and Shoening, who had remained at the motel, and they took Whitford into custody.
“In the course of a search of the defendant’s person for officer safety, a silver folding knife with a blade between three and four inches long was found in the defendant’s left front pants pocket,” Cole-Hodgkinson wrote. “The knife appeared to have blood on it.”
A debit card issued to Afterbuffalo also was found in the room.
Several witnesses at the party told authorities that Whitford had said he had just been released from prison. According to Cole-Hodgkinson, Whitford’s criminal history includes six felonies in the state of Washington for assault, robbery, possession of stolen property, possession with intent to distribute, and two attempts to elude convictions.
He also has gross misdemeanor convictions for theft and assault.
Whitford will be arraigned Wednesday.
There have been four stabbing deaths in Lake County in the past 3 1/2 years, two in the past four months.
• Nathan Adam Butler of Arlee is scheduled to go on trial on April 15 in Lake County for the Nov. 13 murder of his stepfather, John Fisher.
Butler, 16 at the time Fisher was stabbed, also is charged with attempted homicide. He allegedly ambushed his mother and stabbed her multiple times, and then allegedly stabbed Fisher when he came to her aid “until the blade broke off,” and allegedly stabbed a third person in the house who attempted to intervene as well.
• Aaron Jess Spang, then 19, was sentenced to 40 years for mitigated deliberate homicide in 2011 for the 2010 stabbing his mother’s live-in boyfriend, Frank He Does It, in Polson.
• In 2009, Allen Metzger pleaded no contest to a charge of negligent homicide in the stabbing death of his one-time friend James Finch in a Ronan bar. Metzger always maintained he had acted in self-defense, and received a four-year suspended sentence.
That same year, two Lake County women were charged in separate stabbing incidents. The victims in those incidents survived.
A 2005 stabbing death in Lake County also remains in the news. Clifford Oldhorn’s conviction in the murder of former CSKT chairman Harold Mitchell Jr. was overturned on the grounds that a confession to his part in the crime was not given voluntarily.
Authorities believe three other men also were involved, but charges against them were dropped when Oldhorn quit cooperating with authorities, and there was no guarantee he would testify against them. Lake County Attorney Mitch Young says a second homicide trial for Oldhorn hinges on an appeal to the Montana Supreme Court regarding his alleged confession.
Two and a half months ago, Doug Morigeau, who worked at Two Eagle River School in Pablo, was stabbed to death in his home in Dixon during a home invasion in next-door Sanders County. Morgieau’s wife also was stabbed in the attack.
Nathan William Lee Calvert was arrested in that case.