Casey Blanchard family

Casey Blanchard will return home to Stevensville with a Montana Highway Patrol escort on Saturday, June 1. Blanchard was one of four people shot in two incidents about an hour apart on March 14 and March 15 in Missoula and Evaro.

Close to 350 people turned out Saturday in Stevensville to offer emotional and financial support to help shooting victim Casey Blanchard and his family.

The spaghetti dinner benefit and auction raised over $26,000.

Blanchard was one of four people shot March 14 in Missoula. The shooting claimed the life of his friend, Shelley Hayes, and injured his mother, Julie Blanchard.

Montana Highway Patrol trooper Wade Palmer, also from the Bitterroot, was shot and critically wounded hours later, allegedly by the same man, near Evaro. A fundraiser for Palmer at Stevensville’s Super One grocery store two weeks ago raised more than $36,000.

Casey Blanchard was shot eight times, with bullets hitting his left arm, right chest, spine, abdomen and both legs. He has undergone 10 surgeries so far. On April 16, he was moved to rehabilitation, which his family called “a big step in this journey that we have been put through.”

Stevensville native Jessica Hals was one of several friends of the Blanchard family who helped set up Saturday’s fundraiser at St. Mary’s Parish in Stevensville.

“I was actually hoping that a few more people would come, but then I realized there were a ton of other things going on that night,” Hals said. “Considering that, we really did have a good turnout.”

More than 300 items were donated to the fundraiser’s auction, which went on for two hours. Some of those items will be auctioned at the next fundraiser for both Casey and his mother, Julie, which has been dubbed “Boost for Blanchard.” That event will happen Saturday, May 18 at Missoula’s Big Sky Brewery from 2 to 8 p.m.

“It was obvious that people wanted to do what they could to help,” Hals said. “We were still getting calls Saturday morning asking us if it was too late to donate something for the auction. People were bringing us things that same day.”

Hals said one of the organizers video-chatted with Blanchard’s wife, Leah, during the event.

“It was a chance for her to see what was going on,” Hals said. “She was so grateful to those who were there and just so thankful. It was hard for her to put into words.

"It’s one of those things that if any one of us was in that situation, they would be right there doing the same thing for us.”

Blanchard was shot after he got out of his vehicle to check on a motorist who he thought needed assistance.

Palmer was shot several times in the head and neck later that night while waiting in his patrol car near the Evaro Bar and Casino. A Montana Department of Justice press release earlier this month said Palmer has shown signs that he recognizes certain people and things while recovering in a Salt Lake City hospital.

Johnathan Bertsch, 28, of Arlee was charged with one count of deliberate homicide and three counts of attempted deliberate homicide. He is being held without bond.

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