One of the victims in a pair of late-night shootings in Missoula and Evaro last month has been moved into rehabilitation, the Montana Department of Justice announced Monday.
Casey Blanchard, his mother Julia, and Montana Highway Patrol trooper Wade Palmer were shot within about an hour's time on March 14 and 15, in linked incidents that also killed the Blanchards' friend, Shelley Hayes.
The Blanchards and Hayes were driving away from a bar late on March 14 when another vehicle flashed its lights at them. All were shot after Casey Blanchard left his own vehicle to check on it; Palmer was wounded shortly after midnight while pursuing the alleged shooter. An Arlee man has been charged in those cases.
Both Palmer and Casey Blanchard have been hospitalized in Salt Lake City since then. Monday's release said Blanchard and his wife Leah asked the DOJ to provide the update, which they termed "a big step in this journey that we have been put through." It continued:
"Casey was shot eight times when he exited the vehicle. He was shot in the left arm, right chest, spine, abdomen and both legs. He has undergone ten surgeries. As of now, he is limited in most of life’s daily activities. He continues to make progress every day with the help of physical therapists, great doctors, and a phenomenal team. Our life has taken a 180 but we are prepared for every outcome this situation throws at us. Our family would like to thank everyone that has supported and prayed for us during this time. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you guys.”
Last week, the Justice Department reported that Palmer is interacting nonverbally with the people around him.
Johnathan Bertsch, 28, of Arlee, faces one count of deliberate homicide and three counts of attempted deliberate homicide in connection with the shootings. He is being held without bail.
The DOJ release said a spaghetti benefit dinner to help the Blanchards is being held Saturday, April 27, from 4-8 p.m. at St. Mary’s Parish in Stevensville. There will be a live and silent auction. Additionally, all Montana Buffalo Wild Wings locations are donating 20% of their proceeds on May 13 to the victims of the Missoula/Evaro shootings with the presentation of a coupon that can be downloaded at the following link: https://dojmt.gov/highwaypatrol/mt-buffalo-wild-wings-fundraiser/.
A "301 Strong Benefit" for Palmer is slated for Saturday, May 4, at Neptune Aviation. All proceeds will be directed to the Palmer family.