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Man convicted of murdering transient in robberyPosted on May 10

Man convicted of murdering transient in robberyPosted on May 10

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BILLINGS - A District Court jury has convicted a Billings man of murdering a sleeping transient and stabbing a second homeless man during a robbery behind a thrift store.

The jury deliberated about four hours Tuesday before convicting Rusty Lee-Ray Russell, 19, of murder, aggravated assault, robbery by accountability and aggravated assault by accountability.

District Judge Ingrid Gustafson ordered Russell jailed without bail. She did not set a sentencing date.

Russell was convicted of murdering John Gewanski, 65, and stabbing Dale Wallin, 64, in an attack on April 26, 2005. Wallin survived the attack and testified against Russell, as did Brandon Spotted Wolf, who pleaded guilty last month to murder by accountability, robbery and aggravated assault.

Spotted Wolf, 19, told jurors that he and Russell had spent the evening drinking and were walking home through downtown Billings when they spotted a man sleeping behind the thrift store. He said he tried to rouse the man and demanded money and alcohol, but got no response.

Spotted Wolf said Russell handed him a knife and he slashed Wallin across the face, then handed the knife back to Russell saying something like, "Let's see what you can do. Let's see what you got."

Russell then attacked Wallin, stabbing him several times. Russell then moved to a second sleeping man - Gewanski - and began stabbing him, Spotted Wolf said. An autopsy showed Gewanski suffered 10 knife wounds, including three fatal wounds to his right lung.

Another homeless man, who was drinking with Russell and Spotted Wolf, gave a similar account of the attack. Henry Rideshorse, 34, identified Russell and Spotted Wolf by their clothing.

Chief Public Defender Penny Strong said reasonable doubt of Russell's guilt was raised by the fact that a DNA report showed Spotted Wolf had Gewanski's blood on his pants. Spotted Wolf had testified he never got within five feet of the man when the stabbing took place.

Strong also said the knife used in the attack was in Spotted Wolf's pocket when he was arrested.

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