NewsCrime and Courts


DeWise convicted of killing wife, prosecution prepares for sentencing

Chief prosecutor recalls night of the guilty verdict
Posted at 2:52 PM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-12 16:52:34-05

After seven days of trial in Bozeman, Joseph Paul DeWise was found guilty of killing his wife.

Since Monday of last week, the court heard from investigators, neighbors, those who knew Lauren Walder DeWise, Paul DeWise’s children, even from the defendant himself.

In the end, the jury found DeWise guilty of all charges.

Those who oversaw the case say the work and impact from that will be felt for a long time.

“It was very emotional for them and everything that they went through," says Eric Kitzmiller, chief deputy county attorney for Gallatin County.

Breathing held followed by gasps, a moment that took seven days of testimony and just over two hours of jury deliberation: for Kitzmiller, it’s a result of nearly two years of teamwork.

“Without the cooperation and communication between those different agencies, something like this could not have been done," Kitzmiller says.

Kitzmiller says the burden of proof was the first hurdle, from the audio and video tapes to the recovered gun, the bullets found in the home where Lauren was found dead and Ashley Van Hemert was found badly injured.

He adds Van Hemert’s recovery is inspirational.

“When you see the struggles that Ashley has made, has been through and the progress that she has made over the past few months to try and begin the road to recovery,” Kitzmiller says. "She’s able to walk up to the witness stand and that she is able to articulate what she can recall that happened that evening and that she’s able to face the offender in this particular case. It was very powerful.”

Kitzmiller says domestic violence, like this case, is a growing problem in the Gallatin Valley, something the attorney’s office aims to curb.

“Coming forward is not easy, that there is a degree of manipulation and control that the offender has exerted over those people," Kitzmiller says.

And Van Hemert wasn’t alone.

DeWise’s kids, Natalie and Joseph DeWise, Jr., had both spoken to a silent courtroom before their father, now convicted of shooting and killing their stepmother, did so, himself.

"I have been falsely accused here," Paul DeWise said during his testimony. "I didn't do it.”

“They were very brave in coming forward and it was just part of the process of them getting out from underneath his influence," Kitzmiller says.

Again, DeWise’s sentencing is set for February 4, 2020.

A pre-sentence investigation report will be prepared in the meantime, and Kitzmiller says the defense will typically have a chance to address any issues after that.