HELENA — A judge sentenced Sebastian W. Olivares-Coster to three life sentences Friday afternoon in District Court for killing one boy and trying to kill two others in a June shooting in Helena.
Judge Dorothy McCarter sentenced Olivares-Coster, now 18, to life in prison on a deliberate homicide charge and life sentences for two counts of attempted deliberate homicide to run concurrently and consecutively to the deliberate homicide charge. He will be eligible for parole in 60 years.
Olivares-Coster pleaded guilty in November to killing 16-year-old Cory Andrewski and injuring 16-year-old Joey Wohlers and 15-year-old Kahner Leary.
Before reading the sentence, McCarter said she had never had a case where she listened to a full day of testimony and still had so many unanswered questions.
“I still don’t know what was going on in Sebastian’s head,” she said. “None of it makes sense.”
There were no justifications for his actions and the explanations given didn’t connect, she said. McCarter told those in the courtroom that she wishes she knew a possible motive.
“It’d make me feel like I had some ground to stand on and impose the perfect sentence,” she said.
Olivares-Coster read a statement, turning around and facing the victims and their families, but gave little insight into the crimes.
“I’ve shattered your lives irreversibly,” he said. “I can’t replace what I’ve taken.”
Olivares-Coster said he cannot imagine what it’s like to lose a loved one the way Andrewski’s family did.
“I wish I could take away your pain, but I can’t. I wish I could heal your wounds, but I can’t do that,” he read. “All I can say is that I am sorry — that’s all I can do.
“The only justice is the knowledge I’ll be in prison for a long time, maybe forever,” Olivares-Coster added, right before the judge read the sentence.
McCarter said she had many reasons for her decision, including the severity of the crimes, that the acts were planned and deliberate and that because she does not know why Olivares-Coster did it, she has no idea if he’ll potentially do it again. She decided on giving him chance of parole in hopes that it will facilitate rehabilitation and influence positive behavior.
Lori Moore, the state probation officer who conducted the pre-sentence investigation, recommended life without parole for each count.
“Those are just heinous, deliberate, brutal crimes,” Moore said. “We’ve seen what he is capable of and don’t want to give him a chance to do it again in the community.”
Those who testified during the all-day hearing spoke of the two sides of Olivares-Coster — the sweet, polite, extremely intelligent boy, and the vicious killer.
Leary was the first to testify.
“You’re a coward. You’re a murderer. You’re a punk,” Leary said to Olivares-Coster. “You failed. You went up there with the intent to kill three people.”
Leary said he has flashbacks of Andrewski dying every day.
The boys were led to a Helena hillside off South Rodney after Olivares-Coster inserted himself into a text messaging argument between Leary and another boy over the affections of a girl. Leary testified that Olivares-Coster said he was leading him, Andrewski and Wohlers to fight with the boy.
“He was cool the whole way,” he said. “He didn’t appear angry, threatening, nothing.”
Others also testified that Olivares-Coster did not seem intoxicated or act out of the ordinary that night.
Leary said that by the time they were walking up the hill, he didn’t want to fight anyone anymore and would have been content to shake hands and walk away.
It was then Olivares-Coster said he wasn’t going to fight fair and pulled out a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun. Andrewski stood in front of the other two boys.
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Olivares-Coster first shot Andrewski five times, including once execution-style in his head. He then shot Leary on the shoulder, hip, knee, elbow and buttocks. Wohlers was shot twice in the chest and once in each leg.
Leary said he will have lifelong medical issues due to the shooting.
He recalled playing dead in hopes that Olivares-Coster would quit pistol-whipping him.
“I lay down, closed my eyes and held my breath,” he said.
The defense argued that Olivares-Coster should be given some hope of rehabilitation due to his young age, intelligence and supportive family. Chief Public Defender Randi Hood said her client is a drug-and-alcohol-addicted teen who needs treatment but who can be changed and possibly released.
Olivares-Coster was sent to the Montana State Hospital for a mental health evaluation after he pleaded guilty to the three charges. Virginia Hill, staff psychiatrist at the hospital, said his main issue is one of alcohol and marijuana abuse. The second problem is a personality disorder, which is generally not treatable.
“Mr. Olivares-Coster had a fairly uneventful stay,” she said. “We didn’t see any impairment by mental disease.”
Hill said Olivares-Coster was not a good candidate for Montana State Hospital and would do better in a correctional setting.
“He improved ever since incarceration,” she said. “He said he’d never felt better.”
According to Hill, Olivares-Coster reported that his mood would change when he drank, and he’d become so angry it was frightening when he was nearly blackout drunk. While he said he was drunk at the time of the shooting, the victims said he showed no signs of impairment.
“He was completely sober and he was really nice — until it happened,” testified Wohlers, who has lost one kidney and parts of his liver and pancreas. He spent 2-1/2 months in hospitals.
Olivares-Coster was vague in his paperwork for the pre-sentence investigation, according to Moore. He wrote that he shot and killed one person and injured two people with the intent to kill. He said the same statement during his plea in November, only adding “and I don’t know why” at the hearing.
When Olivares-Coster was asked for a reason for the crime, he answered “unknown” or a potential mental breakdown, Moore said.
“He isn’t accountable for what his intentions were,” she said.
When asked if Olivares-Coster showed any remorse, Hill said he once became tearful and said he felt the worst when he thought about the families of the victims.
Andrewski’s mother, Jody Plaza, shook and sobbed as she read a statement. It also marked the first time in the hearing that Olivares-Coster showed any emotion by crying.
Plaza talked about the night of the shooting when the coroner knocked on her door to say “I’m sorry. Cory has passed away.”
“Those words constantly echo in my head and they will until the day I die,” she said, her hands trembling. “Imagine the grief and horror of hearing those words.”
“I hope my words haunt you every day of your life,” Plaza said to Olivares-Coster.
Plaza said she knows her son died a hero by trying to protect the other boys.
“You, on the other hand, are a vile, demonic monster,” she said.
Nothing on the night of June 3 made any sense, Plaza said.
“The why is buried in your evil mind,” she said.