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Negligent homicide suspect remains behind bars

by Canda Harbaugh & Western News
| February 8, 2011 2:46 PM

photo

Jacob Stufflebeam

photo

Jacob Stufflebeam

A man charged with the accidental fatal

shooting of his child’s mother last month pleaded not guilty Monday

in district court to negligent homicide and related misdemeanor

charges.

Jacob William Stufflebeam, 30, was also

denied a bond reduction at the hearing after District Court Judge

Jim Wheelis stated that he was not a “good candidate to follow

restrictions” that would accompany his release, such as a ban on

alcohol and firearms.

“I have misgivings about his judgment,”

Wheelis said.

Stufflebeam faces charges for the Jan.

13 shooting death of 25-year-old Sara Jane Gudmundsen while the two

were allegedly drinking and riding with others in a passenger car

outside Libby. Stufflebeam had allegedly used a pistol to shoot out

the car window and then unintentionally shot her as he was placing

the gun in the holster.

Defense attorney Courtney Nolan had

argued that Stufflebeam’s release would not pose a risk to the

public because, although he is facing a significant charge, it is

one of negligence, not malice.

She had also pointed out that he was

not a flight risk, as his family – including his daughter – lives

in the area.

Prosecutor Robert Slomski expressed

concern of Stufflebeam’s “history of juvenile, immature, stupid

behavior” involved in drinking. Slomski said that Stufflebeam was

in and out of juvenile detention as a youth – he was charged with

breaking into a golf course at night and crashing golf carts with

his friends, calling in a bomb threat to his school at age 17, and

tearing condom machines off the wall at a local gas station,

according to Slomski.

Nolan said that Stufflebeam had a good

support system in place outside of jail, which he needed after the

death of his daughter’s mother.

“This has had a drastic and dramatic

impact on him,” she said.

Stufflebeam’s bond was set at $200,000

last month after his arrest.

Stufflebeam told authorities that he

had unintentionally shot Gudmundsen while sitting behind her in the

backseat of the passenger side of the car, according to an officer

affidavit filed in justice court. The two had been traveling with

three other friends near Libby Dam while consuming alcohol, court

documents said. Stufflebeam allegedly told police that his

.222-caliber pistol discharged into the seat in front of him and

struck Gudmundsen.

The driver of the car reportedly raced

toward town and called 911 once in cell service range, according to

police. Dispatch took the call at 10:50 p.m. and authorities met

the vehicle five miles north of Libby on Highway 37.

Libby Volunteer Ambulance transported

Gudmundsen to St. John’s Lutheran Hospital where she was pronounced

dead.

If convicted, Stufflebeam could face a

maximum of 20 years in prison for negligent homicide, plus

additional time for two related misdemeanor charges of criminal

mischief and shooting from or across a road or highway

right-of-way.