The man and woman accused of killing two people in Missoula in August pleaded not guilty during a Wednesday court hearing.
Augustus Standingrock and Tiffanie Pierce each were charged with deliberate homicide and accountability for deliberate homicide after the remains of two bodies were found in the basement of a house in Strand Avenue on Aug. 17.
After almost a month of attempts — including the use of DNA and dental records — to identify the victims, Sheriff T.J. McDermott confirmed they were 15-year-old Marilyn Pickett and 24-year-old Jackson Wiles.
Standingrock and Pierce’s hearings Wednesday were a procedural step to start a criminal case in Missoula County District Court.
County Attorney Kirsten Pabst said prosecutors will not seek the death penalty in the case, saying her interpretation of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision is that Montana's mechanism for executions is illegal.
"The U.S. Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that our death penalty scheme is unconstitutional," she said.
According to court documents filed in the case, Pierce’s roommate went to police on Aug. 17, saying he woke up to the sound of screams and found Pierce and her boyfriend Standingrock taking a shower to wash off blood. Pierce told the roommate Standingrock brought two people home and attacked one, and that she attacked the other when they tried to flee, according to an affidavit.
Police searched the home that afternoon and, in the basement, found human remains in plastic tubs filled with chemicals. They also found knives and an ax covered in blood and human tissue, according to court documents. Pierce and Standingrock were arrested at the home.
The same day that police searched the house, deputies found Wiles’ car near Bonner. Inside was his wallet as well as Pickett’s phone, which was covered in blood according to court documents.
In the river nearby, officers found plastic garbage bags with bloody clothing inside.
On Wednesday, Pabst told retired District Court Judge James Wheelis — who has been brought in to oversee the cases — that Standingrock’s “behavior and threats” while in the jail made him a security risk to transport to court for future hearings. She also said Pierce has created “quite a security concern for detention staff.”
Standingrock’s attorney Colin Stephens said he would discuss the matter but felt that, given the seriousness of the charge, his client should be in court for all proceedings.
At the time of their arrest, both defendants had other legal entanglements. Police were investigating Pierce for her alleged involvement in a July home invasion and stabbing on Montana Street. No charges have been filed against her from that incident.
Standingrock had been released after serving a portion of previous felony sentences for assault with a weapon and criminal endangerment.
Both Pierce, 23, and Standingrock, 26, continue to be held on $2 million bail.