Joseph Paul DeWise will spend the rest of his life in prison for murdering his wife and shooting another woman in January of 2018.
DeWise, 49, was sentenced Tuesday to 220 years in the Montana State Prison with no possibility for parole for shooting and injuring Ashley Van Hemert and murdering his wife Lauren Walder DeWise.
He appeared with attorneys Alex Jacobi and Annie DeWolf in Gallatin County District Court before Judge Holly Brown.
Jacobi and DeWolf did not call any witnesses during sentencing and did not question any of the witnesses prosecutors called to the stand. During sentencing recommendations, DeWolf asked that Judge Brown not punish DeWise more harshly for exercising his right to go trial.
DeWolf and Jacobi asked that Brown sentence DeWise to 62 years in the Montana State Prison.
“Even with this sentence, he will likely die in prison,” DeWolf said.
Prosecutors drew on Van Hemert’s physical and mental recovery after the shooting to urge Brown to follow their sentence recommendation. They called on family members to share how the incident affected their lives. Van Hemert’s mother, sister and two brothers said they forgave DeWise but asked that he remain in prison for life.
Despite her family’s request of no contact, Van Hemert, 34, said at some point — “definitely no time in the near future” — she’d be open to writing DeWise.
“I don’t want you to write and tell me of your innocence and tell me how you didn’t commit this crime,” Van Hemert said.
Since the shooting, she said she hasn’t been able to do the things she loved like hiking, snowboarding, skiing and running with her dog. Before the shooting, she told prosecutor Eric Kitzmiller, she got a new pair of cross-country skis and taught her dog how to tow her using a harness.
Van Hemert said she could walk now, “but you could tell it’s very, very not normal.”
“There is a day when the lord is going to fully heal me,” she said.
“My goal is to get back to the mountains,” Van Hemert said.
While she was in a hospital in Colorado, Van Hemert wrote on her pillows, “If I die, you must forgive this man,” and said she forgave DeWise but acknowledged that he needed to be punished.
Van Hemert, who formerly worked at a nursing home in Bozeman, told prosecutors that she hoped DeWise spent the rest of his life in prison but would be placed in a secure nursing home if he was no longer deemed a dangerous person.
“I don’t want it for you, Paul, to die in a prison cell,” she told him.
During her testimony, Linda Van Hemert, Ashley’s mother, confronted DeWise about shooting her daughter
and leaving her on the floor of her bedroom to die. “You made her live a life with many challenges, physically, but you never did touch her soul,” she said. She said she forgives DeWise and hopes he does a lot of reflecting while he’s behind bars and confesses his sins.
“I cannot live with the anger and stay focused on that,” Linda Van Hemert told DeWise. “You’re not worth it. I’m going to stay focused on complete healing of my daughter.”
Before sentencing, DeWise spoke for just shy of 45 minutes and gave alternate explanations of incidents that happened leading to the death of his wife, Lauren Walder DeWise. He said detectives, prosecutors, his children and ex-wife all lied during his trial. He said he was neither abusive nor manipulative, as witnessed testified.
“How did my trial become character assassination instead of a trial based on facts?” DeWise asked.
He asked why spend the time on the “he said, she said” and not focus on the facts.
“Justice was not served. I was lynched in the Montana tradition,” DeWise said.
DeWise was convicted of the shootings after a seven-day trial in December.
During the trial, Joe DeWise, Joseph Paul DeWise’s son, testified that he saw his dad shoot his mother and Van Hemert in their Belgrade home. Natalie DeWise, Joseph Paul DeWise’s daughter, testified that her dad woke her up the morning after the incident and admitted killing Lauren.