The suspect in the Tuesday night stabbing of a Missoula man was arrested early Thursday morning after a passing motorist recognized the cowboy hat the man was wearing as he tried to hitch a ride on Interstate 90.

Shelby Lane McMullen was picked up by Missoula County Sheriff's deputies at about 8 a.m. at the Reserve Street exit on I-90. Senior deputy Pat Estill, the arresting officer, said McMullen and a female companion, Megen Lonefight, were trying to get a ride in the westbound lane of I-90.

McMullen, 36, was wanted in connection with an altercation late Tuesday night at the old Champion mill site in which 26-year-old Meredith Wounded Eye was stabbed and hit over the head with a brick. Wounded Eye had reportedly been drinking with McMullen and Lonefight throughout the evening before the alleged attack took place. Wounded Eye said he was hit with a brick and stabbed with a knife during the altercation.

Wounded Eye was treated early Wednesday morning at a Missoula hospital for a 5-inch cut to his chest and a bump on his forehead.

Wounded Eye did not know the identities of his drinking companions, but provided Sheriff's Sgt. Larry Jackson with a description of his male attacker that included the fact he was wearing a brown, smooth leather cowboy hat.

After the description appeared Thursday in a Missoulian story about the stabbing, Estill said a passing motorist going to Frenchtown called authorities to report a man hitchhiking who was wearing a cowboy hat that looked like the one described in the newspaper article. Deputies were sent to the scene, Estill said, and McMullen was arrested without incident. Estill recovered a black-handled knife from McMullen when he was arrested.

Estill said McMullen was a transient with no fixed address. He said McMullen and Lonefight said they were on their way to Oregon.

According to court documents, McMullen said that the fight began when Wounded Eye pinched McMullen's buttocks as he was lying down next to Lonefight in an attempt to get him to resume drinking. McMullen said he believed Wounded Eye was making a "homosexual advance" and told him to stop.

At that point, McMullen said Wounded Eye picked up a piece of concrete and struck him with it. McMullen said he then hit Wounded Eye with a brick, but could not recall cutting him with a knife. Lonefight said McMullen had a knife in his hand, but dropped it when Wounded Eye hit him. She speculated that Wounded Eye was cut when he fell on the ground.

McMullen appeared in Missoula Justice Court Thursday afternoon where he was arraigned on two felony assault charges - one for allegedly stabbing Wounded Eye and one for allegedly hitting him with a brick. Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech set McMullen's bail at $20,000.

Reporter Gary Jahrig can be reached at 523-5259 or at gjahrig@missoulian.com.

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