Missoula man pleads not guilty in double-fatality crash on Hillview Way

Missoula man pleads not guilty in double-fatality crash on Hillview Way


The young man accused of driving drunk when his car spun out of control on Hillview Way last month, killing two of his friends and seriously injuring a third, pleaded not guilty to three felony charges Wednesday in Missoula County District Court.

Justin Leshai Barber, 21, remains in the Missoula County jail on $500,000 bond. He’s charged with vehicular homicide under the influence in the deaths of Jason McDonald, 20, of Frenchtown, and Joshua Gruebele, 18, of Missoula.

Authorities estimated the Cadillac driven by Barber was traveling 80 mph down Hillview Way at 3:15 a.m. on March 4 when it left the road, hit a sign and rolled.

McDonald was dead at the scene and Gruebele died the next day at St. Patrick Hospital. A third passenger, Nic Platz, 21, of Missoula, was treated for serious injuries at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

“This is just a tragic case. Everybody involved in this accident has been friends for years and they’re very close,” said Milt Datsopoulos, Barber’s attorney.

Datsopoulos said he received additional information on the case Tuesday that he needs to review before seeking a lower bail for Barber. That process should be completed early next week, he said.

Barber’s next court hearing is set for May 9.

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