NewsCrime and Courts


Trial begins for DeWise, accused of killing his wife

Accused of killing his wife Lauren and shooting another woman
Posted at 9:09 AM, Dec 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-04 12:04:49-05

BOZEMAN — Testimony began Tuesday in the murder trial of Joseph Paul DeWise, who is accused of killing his wife Lauren and shooting another woman on January 7, 2018, at their home in Belgrade.

"I actually started to talk to her and as I walked closer to the threshold of the door, I saw that she was dead," says Audria Butler, who owned and lived in the home shared by Lauren DeWise.

Butler recounted the night she found Lauren dead and another woman critically wounded — both shot while they were sleeping. “Ashley was laying on the floor," Butler says. "There was a lot of blood in my memory. She was awake. Her eyes were wide open and she said please help me.”

Butler says Lauren moved into her home in mid-November of 2017, afraid, accusing DeWise of abuse. “She sort of out of the blue actually said I want to tell you something," Butler says. "Can I tell you something that I haven’t shared with anybody before? I said okay and she said I’ve been married for 10 years. My husband has been abusing me for a really long time.”

The woman who survived the shooting, Ashley Van Hemert, took the stand herself. "I was shot in the back of the head," Van Hemert says. "I was shot in the right carotid artery and I know I was shot in my right side, as well. From my gunshot wound to the head, I lost my peripheral vision to my left side so now have to wear a prism now on my left lens and it helps me.”

Van Hemert described an evening with her boyfriend, Ralph Dennis, who had dropped her off the night before. That’s all she remembers before she says she woke up in the hospital.

PROSECUTOR: “What’s the next thing that you can remember after going to bed?”

VAN HEMERT: “This was no and this is yes," gesturing with her thumb, remembering being in the hospital.

Dennis says at one point, he was considered primary suspect, with an on-and-off past with Van Hemert.

The defense argues that several others could have been the shooter, including Dennis. While Butler says with DeWise having shown up several times at her house in the days leading up to what happened, she believes it was the man sitting in the defendant’s chair. "Because of all of the threatening things that he had said to Lauren, because of the terror that he had already caused her because of the aggressive things that he had said to me," Butler says.

The trial is expected to take 10 days to get to a point where we may hear a verdict. DeWise will remain at the detention center on $1 million bail.

(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.