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Killer of JoAnn Malone identified

Great Falls murder suspect dead after fleeing to Pondera County
Posted at 11:42 AM, Mar 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-30 14:37:16-04

Chae Buchholz of Great Falls, 53 years old, has been identified as the man who shot and killed JoAnn Malone in a West Hill home on March 17, 2023.

Dan Whitted, the acting Pondera County coroner from Toole County, confirmed the identity to KRTV on Thursday, March 30.

Cascade County Sheriff/Coroner Jesse Slaughter said that Malone died of "multiple gunshot wounds."

After shooting Malone, Buchholz fled the home in a pickup truck and began driving north.

Police responding to 'serious incident' in West Hill area of Great Falls
Police responding to 'serious incident' in West Hill area of Great Falls (March 17, 2023)

At about 7:45 p.m., a Pondera County Sheriff’s deputy found the truck on Highway 44 near Conrad. When deputies tried to contact Buchholz, he drove away heading west and deputies began chasing after him.

Pondera County Sheriff Robert Skorupa explained: "At approximately 7:30 yesterday (Friday, March 17) evening, we were contacted about a homicide that took place in Great Falls. The dispatcher had received some information and called our deputies. They had a pretty good description of the vehicle. My Valier deputy went to Conrad to talk with the dispatcher."

He continued, "On his way there, he noticed a vehicle off of (Highway) 44 parked. At that moment, he didn't know the description, so he went into Conrad to talk to dispatch. He said, 'That vehicle is parked on 44, about mile marker 25.' The Conrad deputy and himself came down and found the vehicle that was still there. They came to approach the vehicle and it started onto 44 Westbound."

valier montana map

Sheriff Skorupa said speeds were reasonable until mile marker 13, when the suspect brandished a revolver and shot two rounds at the deputies.

The chase went into the town of Valier and stopped at the Valier Pavilion boat ramp where deputies were able to block his escape.

Sheriff Skorupa said that deputies and negotiators tried for three hours to get Buchholz to surrender peacefully, but at about 11 p.m., he died after shooting himself.

Malone was the founder of Seeking Recovery in Great Falls.

JoAnn Malone
JoAnn Malone of Seeking Recovery in a 2021 KRTV article

Shortly after her death, the following message was posted on the Seeking Recovery website:

It is with an extremely heavy heart that we have to announce the passing of our friend, CEO, and business owner Joann Malone. We ask for privacy in this time of mourning. Please rest assured that Joann's mission to help the community will continue. Seeking Recovery will continue in her honor.

Authorities have not commented on the relationship between Malone and Buchholz, but believe that this was not a random crime.

Several agencies were involved in the investigation, including the Great Falls Police Department, Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, Montana Highway Patrol, Glacier and Toole County Sheriff’s Office, Conrad Police, Blackfeet Law Enforcement, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the FBI.