Jonathan Bertsch Moves One Step Closer to Sentencing for Murders
Jonathan Bertsch is scheduled to be sentenced on May 24 and 25 in Missoula.
At a hearing before Missoula District Court Judge Shane Vannatta on Thursday, convicted and confessed murderer Jonathan Bertsch was informed that extensive testing at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs found him mentally fit to be sentenced for his crimes.
Judge Vannatta read from the hospital’s report.
“Based on background information, witness statements, court documents, 24/7 observations, extensive psychological testing and multiple interviews, Mr. Bertsch is believed to have the capacity to be considered fit to proceed,” read Judge Vannatta. “There is no evidence to suggest the presence of a psychotic disorder, mood disorder or severe cognitive dysfunction associated with intellectual disability, which would have compromised his functioning at the time of the crimes, nor his current adjudicatory competency.”
Vaanata’s words swept aside Bertsch’s allegations that he ‘didn’t understand what was happening’, and the judge denied Bertsch the opportunity to receive counsel from his father.
“At the time of the crimes he is believed to have retained the capacity to act knowingly or purposely, as well as the capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct and conform his conduct to the requirements of the law and based upon that report, the court believes Mr. Bertsch that you are fit to proceed and that you do not suffer from a mental disease or disorder as provided by statute.”
When all the hearings with defense counsel are completed, judge Vannatta set sentencing for Bertsch for May 24 and 25.
Prosecutor Jordan Kilby with the Missoula County Attorney’s Office explained why Bertsch’s sentencing may last for two days.
“We've asked for two days to allow anyone who we know is related to this case to come and testify about what they think about an appropriate sentence,” said Kilby. “Mr. Bertsch pled guilty without a plea agreement. He just pled guilty to the case as charged. The maximum penalty for him would be life in prison without the possibility of parole.”
Bertsch confessed that on March 14 and 15, 2019, he shot and killed two people, and critically wounded two others, including Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer.
The first shooting happened March 14, 2019, where Bertsch is accused of killing Shelley Hays, and wounding Casey Blanchard and Blanchard's mother Julie off Expressway Boulevard in Missoula. Julie Blanchard eventually died from complications of the shooting.
Palmer was shot three times in the head and neck and has undergone extensive therapy for his wounds.
The Palmer family watched the proceedings via Zoom, along with many other witnesses.
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