Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Kendall sentenced — again

Daily Inter Lake | September 17, 2021 7:00 AM

In Jeremiah Kendall’s last scheduled court appearance in Libby before the start of a lengthy prison stint, he received a suspended 20-year sentence for attempted burglary.

Kendall, 41, appeared in Lincoln County District Court from the county jail via videoconferencing software Sept. 13 for his sentencing on charges related to crimes committed during a short-lived escape from custody in April. Kendall earned 20 years behind bars earlier this year for brutally beating his then-girlfriend in 2014 and an additional 10 years without parole for his April flight.

The hearing concluded without much fanfare. District Judge Matthew Cuffe described the punishment, to run concurrent to his previous sentences, as “appropriate.”

“This is consistent with Montana law and, given the sentences in the other two cases, it makes sense,” he said. “The sentence is an appropriate sentence given where we are at procedurally.”

Kendall agreed to plead guilty to the burglary charge after striking a deal with prosecutors last month. Authorities initially charged him with attempted burglary, two counts of burglary, and counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, theft of property exceeding $5,000 and misdemeanor theft.

During his April escape from custody, Kendall allegedly stole a Polaris side-by-side from one individual and blankets from another. He is accused of approaching a third home, only to retreat after spotting a surveillance camera. According to court documents, he grabbed the camera and tossed it away from the house before departing.

Authorities located Kendall with the unwitting help of his wife. Suspecting she was still in contact with him, investigators began tracking her movements. Following Kendall’s wife and another man to Forest Service Road 6209, deputies with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office found, chased down and arrested the fugitive.

Jennifer Kendall and her accomplice, Fredrick Hersel, initially were charged with obstruction of justice. They were placed on a pretrial diversion, which includes three years of supervision, earlier in the summer. Failure to comply could result in renewed prosecution.

Kendall was on house arrest when he fled April 7. When the time came for his sentencing on a count of felony aggravated assault, Kendall was in quarantine, having come into close contact with an individual infected with the coronavirus. Not wanting to delay again — Kendall first pleaded guilty in September 2020 — Cuffe added house arrest time to the sentence.

Kendall was to remain at home and turn himself in to authorities on April 9. Two days prior to the deadline, law enforcement officials spotted him leaving his house on a four-wheeler.

Kendall’s original charges in district court come from a vicious attack on his former girlfriend in 2014. The victim was brought to a local medical center after suffering what doctors were told was a fall following heavy partying.

Medical professionals, though, determined the wounds did not match up with the alleged incident and contacted law enforcement. The victim suffered injuries to 38 areas of her body, including bruising, abrasions and bleeding beneath the skin. She will never fully recover from the attack, her relatives said at a previous sentencing.

“He took … who she was,” said Terrah Messick, the victim’s sister, at a March court appearance. “She’ll never be the same again.”

After investigators began questioning the falling scenario, Kendall told them that she fell in the bathroom. In a subsequent version, he found her in the bathroom with a shotgun. She was injured while he was trying to disarm her.

Authorities failed to find evidence supporting Kendall’s new versions of events, according to court documents.

They also accused Kendall of accessing the victim’s phone while she was in a medically induced coma and deleting text messages and a Facebook Messenger chat alluding to abuse at his hands, court documents said.

Brought up on federal charges in the meantime, prosecutors in Lincoln County held off on filing against him until he was released from prison in 2019.

“I know that things happen and we don’t mean for them to happen. But at least take responsibility for your actions and what you’ve done to another person,” Messick said during the March sentencing. “I’ve just been waiting for an apology, Jeremiah. From you or your family.”

Kendall offered the long-awaited apology that same day.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “That about sums it up.”