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bertsch hearing file

Johnathan Albert Bertsch has been jailed on $2 million bond since he was arrested in March. Bertsch is charged in back-to-back shootings that killed two people and wounded two others, including a Montana Highway Patrol trooper.

The Evaro man arrested after back-to-back shootings March that killed two people and wounded two others, including a Montana Highway Patrol trooper, was slated Thursday to stand trial in August 2020.

Johnathan Albert Bertsch, who was 28 when he was arrested on March 15, faces one count of deliberate homicide and three counts of attempted deliberate homicide. The trial, expected to last 10 days, was set for Aug. 17 in Missoula County District Court.

Bertsch has been jailed on $2 million bail since four people were gunned down west of Missoula in the late hours of March 14 and shortly after 12 a.m. on March 15.

Prosecutors allege the rampage began with Bertsch following a pickup truck from a bar at the Wye toward Missoula around 11 p.m. on March 14. Occupants of the pickup said they pulled over when a white SUV behind them began flashing its lights. When their vehicle stopped, all three occupants were struck by gunfire. Shelley Hays, 28, died at the scene. Casey Blanchard and his mother, Julie, were both struck but were taken to the hospital.

Casey Blanchard survived but was left paralyzed from the waist down. Julie Blanchard survived the initial attack, but died in June from complications due to her gunshot wounds; a coroner in Washington, where she was recovering, ruled her death a homicide. She was 52.

Missoula Deputy County Attorney Jordan Kilby on Thursday declined to comment on a possible deliberate homicide charge in light of Julie Blanchard's death since Bertsch was charged, but said the matter is still under review.

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Authorities allege that after firing on the Blanchard's vehicle, Bertsch fled the scene north on Highway 93, and then ambushed Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer near the top of Evaro Hill. Palmer suffered gunshot wounds to the head, face and neck, but survived. 

Montana Highway Patrol brass, as they have through most of Bertsch's court proceedings, attended Thursday's hearing. The state police honored local law enforcement officers last month for their response to the shootings and assistance in saving Palmer's life. 

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