Kimberly Joyce Hiwalker Sentenced in U.S. District Cour
Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Billings, on February 19, 2009, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, KIMBERLY JOYCE HIWALKER, a 43-year-old resident of Lame Deer, appeared for sentencing. HIWALKER was sentenced to a term of:
- Prison: 15 months and 4 days
- Special Assessment: $100
- Restitution: To be determined at a later date
- Supervised Release: 3 years
HIWALKER was sentenced in connection with her guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On November 3, 2007, HIWALKER and her boyfriend went into her bedroom and closed the door at her residence in Lame Deer. At the time, HIWALKER'S three sons were in the house. At approximately 10:50 a.m., the boys heard a single gunshot from HIWALKER'S room. They ran to the room and saw HIWALKER laying on top of her boyfriend, the victim, screaming and crying. The room smelled of alcohol and gun powder. There was blood pooling on the floor and splattered on the wall. The victim was making gurgling sounds on the floor. He later died of a single gunshot wound to the head.
FBI agents arrived on the scene shortly after the shooting. During the course of the day agents also spoke to several witnesses.
In one interview, B.J. told agents that HIWALKER and the victim arrived home midmorning on November 3 after drinking all night. HIWALKER was crying and upset. She would not stop crying and B.J. and M.L.C. told her to go to bed. In another interview, M.L.C. gave a more detailed account of the morning's events. He told agents that he drove the victim and HIWALKER to Colstrip early on November 3. During the drive the victim and HIWALKER were arguing "off and on." They bought beer in Colstrip and returned to Lame Deer. After a few stops, they returned home, where they continued to fight in HIWALKER'S room, until M.L.C. heard the gunshot.
FBI agents interviewed HIWALKER several times, each time her statement varied. HIWALKER first told agents that she was in her room with the victim, they were not arguing or fighting. He began to wave his gun around and it just went off. HIWALKER reiterated that they were not fighting, and further explained that the victim was standing when the gun went off and she left the room and told M.L.C. that she thought the gun went off. Upon further questioning, HIWALKER told agents she was not telling the truth. This time she explained that she thought she would get shot, so she grabbed the gun when the victim waved it around. They wrestled with it and it fired. HIWALKER then changed her story and said that she took the gun away from the victim when he was waving it. She held it and it "went off" when the victim was standing in the room. HIWALKER later added that she was holding the gun and pointing it at the victim when it went off.
When questioned further about the facts of the shooting, HIWALKER again said she had not been truthful. In a recorded statement, she stated that the victim had threatened her about leaving him. He pulled out the gun and she took it away because she believed he was going to hit her. She admitted they had been arguing about the victim being a bad influence. When she took the gun away from him, the victim moved toward her and she "dropped down," pointed the gun at the victim, and pulled the trigger. She admitted this was a mistake and that there were other actions she could have taken, but she did not want to get hit.
Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that HIWALKER will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, HIWALKER does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lori Harper Suek prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.