An Eastern Montana jury acquitted a former Absarokee man this week in a homicide case after he was accused of running over another man with his car.
Michael Thomas Holtz was acquitted on charges of negligent homicide, evidence tampering and failure to stop at a scene involving death or personal injury.
The verdict was delivered around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, according to Dawson County Clerk of Court Tammy Helmuth. Jurors began deliberating around 11 a.m., she said.
Holtz was accused in the July 28, 2013, death of 27-year-old Forest Dana. Dana’s mother found him dead in the alley behind their home. An autopsy ruled his spinal cord was severed when a car drove over his head.
According to prosecutors, Holtz had been drinking the night of the death, and witnesses saw him speed down the alley where Dana’s body was found. Investigators later found DNA on Holtz’ car that matched Dana’s DNA, charges stated.
Prosecutors alleged that after running over Dana, Holtz drove away and then crashed his car in an attempt to hamper any investigation into the death.
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Charges filed by the Stillwater County Attorney’s Office were dropped in 2016, after prosecutors said no witnesses could positively identify that Holtz, and not his twin brother, was driving the car, the Stillwater County News reported.
The Montana Attorney General’s Office refiled charges in 2018, saying at least one witness is sure it was the defendant because he was typically clean shaven and his brother had a beard, while others provided alibis for his twin, according to The Associated Press.
In 2016, Dana’s parents won a $4.6 million settlement against the Five Spot Bar, which a judge said was negligent in serving Holtz, who was a minor, on the night of Dana's death.
In August, 22nd Judicial District Court Judge Matthew Wald granted a defense request for a change of venue, setting the trial in Glendive.
Defense attorneys Vern and Cammi Woodward could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday morning.
A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.