BOZEMAN — Joseph Paul DeWise was sentenced Tuesday for killing his estranged wife Lauren and critically wounding her roommate Ashley Van Hemert in January 2018.
District Court Judge Holly Brown sentenced Paul DeWise to 220 years in Montana State Prison with no eligibility for parole. “The circumstances of this crime are outrageous,” said Judge Holly Brown during sentencing. “They are aggravated and they are intolerable.”
A jury found DeWise guilty of deliberate homicide and attempted homicide after a 7-day trial in December 2019. "I have been falsely accused here," Paul DeWise said when he testified during the trial. "I didn't do it.”
The shootings happened in January 2018 at a residence on Idaho Street in Belgrade.
During sentencing, DeWise took the stand for nearly 50 minutes to testify one last time, but it was the voice of Ashley Van Hemert, who he shot four times on the night of January 6, 2018 at the Silver Maple home near Belgrade, that some say carried the furthest in that courtroom.
The courtroom was packed and Ashley Van Hemert’s brothers, sister, and mother all sat to support the woman who woke up on January 6, 2018 to find a man standing over her in the dark.
“It’s night and day from before January 6, 2018,” Van Hemert said on the witness stand. “I’ve had to learn to live with only the use of my right hand and arm so I’ve had to learn to dress all over again."
Her brothers, Caleb and Terrill, also took the stand with words meant only for DeWise. “You tried to kill my sister,” Terrill Van Hemert said to DeWise. “You did a pretty darn good job of trying to do it. Unless God intervened, she would be dead. She was on the ground for I believe almost nine hours, wondering if she was going to die. What do you think that felt like?”
In the end, each Van Hemert, from her mother, Linda, to her sister, Carissa, told DeWise they forgave him.
Then Paul DeWise began to speak. “I feel for Ashley,” DeWise said. “She’s a special lady.” Going on and off a written statement, DeWise spoke for nearly an hour.
“The prosecutor kind of makes the story better every time I hear it,” DeWise said. “I’ve never had a problem. I’ve never had anybody accuse me of having trouble with my temper. I’ve never had anybody accuse me of being, like I said, manipulative or controlling.”
But Ashley’s voice rang out the loudest. “Mr. DeWise, thank you for looking at me,” Van Hemert said to DeWise. “It is well with my soul what you have done to me.”
Then Ashley, to the man who shot her four times, including the back of the head, gave that same man a bible with a poem.
Before reciting it, Van Hemert said she helped her brother write it.
In part, the poem read as follows:
“The night was quiet. All was calm. We were just there sleeping in our home. Then you broke in, the shots rang out, you killed Lauren and left me for dead.”
“By the grace of God, I survived and I lived to be a testimony. When people ask me what they can pray for, I say for my body, your children and your soul. This life is short, eternity is forever and you need Jesus more than my body, whole.”
“I can sit here in anger. I can sit here in hate. I could sit here wishing you’d have no other way. I’m praying for you to sit at His feet, to bow down before the only King of Kings.”
“Lord won’t you rescue this man’s soul and show him your the way, the truth and the life while he sits all alone in his prison cell.”
“If God could forgive me an unlimited amount of times, then how can I withhold forgiveness from you, Paul. If God could forgive me an unlimited amount of times, then how can I withhold forgiveness from you, Paul.”
Before his sentencing, Ashley Van Hemert told Paul DeWise that she, too, forgave him.
“I don’t want him to die in prison,” Van Hemert said through tears. “If you get to an age where they don’t deem you a threat anymore, I would appreciate it if there’s a secure place, like a nursing home or somewhere you can go to die there, that would make me very happy because I used to work in a retirement home and I see how hard it is for people who have all the medicines to make dying easier for them, how hard it still is and I honestly don’t want it for you, Paul, to die in a prison cell.”
During sentencing on Tuesday, prosecutors recommended DeWise serve 100 years for deliberate homicide, with an additional ten years for a weapons enhancement, to be served consecutively. The state also recommended a sentence of 110 years total for attempted deliberate homicide. The state asked that both sentences be served consecutively, totaling 220 years, with no chance for parole.
DeWise must also pay restitution to the victims totaling $25,267.10. He will be credited 755 days for time served as his case made its way through court.
(APRIL 14, 2018) Joseph Paul DeWise, accused of shooting and killing his estranged wife and severely wounding another woman in Belgrade, reportedly told one of his children in a recorded jailhouse phone call that his son should admit to the shootings.
DeWise, 47, faces a new charge of felony witness tampering after violating a court order not to contact witnesses or family members.
DeWise is currently incarcerated at the Gallatin County Detention on deliberate homicide charges for the death of his wife, Lauren Walder DeWise.
According to charging documents, DeWise reportedly made two calls to a phone number that belonged to his daughter. The first call was on Feb. 6, 2018 at approximately 9:23 p.m. There was no conversation as the call ended immediately after an advisory that the call was subject to recording and monitoring.
A second call was allegedly made to the girl on Feb. 7, 2018, at approximately 6:40 a.m. That call began after the advisory that the call was subject to recording and lasted 12 minutes and 31 seconds.
According to transcripts, during the conversation, DeWise told his 17-year-old daughter (identified in documents as ND) that he knew wasn’t allowed to talk to her. He also told her that his 15-year-old son (identified in documents as JD) “said that I took him with me and I’m responsible for what happened. So, that means to me that, um, JD must have done it.”
DeWise then told the girl: “…it’s real important that he admit it because if he admits it then I get the f*** out of here. Understand?”
Later in the conversation, DeWise tells the girl: “(JD’s) 15 and he, it’s, it, he’s scared. I understand but he needs to know something. The jails here, they’re safe, they’re nice. The food’s good and they don’t have the rape problem. It’s against the law to even have sex here. So he doesn’t have to worry about that s***.”
DeWise also reportedly told the girl that JD would “probably be in until he’s like 21 or something. And he’ll be able to finish his school….”
DeWise is scheduled to make an appearance in Gallatin County District Court at 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 13, 2018.
As part of the court orders after DeWise’s Feb. 6, 2018 district court appearance when he entered “not guilty” pleas to deliberate homicide and attempted deliberate homicide, his bond was set at $1 million and ordered not contact in any way the alleged victim or witnesses of the incident.
Lauren Walder DeWise was killed Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018 in a shooting on Idaho Street in Belgrade.
Another roommate, Ashley Van Hemert, was also shot and is currently recovering from her wounds.
DeWise had his three children in the vehicle with him when he was arrested on Jan. 11, 2018; Lauren is the mother of the youngest, a 4-year-old. Dewise informed officers he had firearms in the vehicle.