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Suspect in Missoula, Evaro shootings enters not guilty plea

Posted: 5:06 PM, Mar 28, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-29 08:50:32-04

MISSOULA – The suspect in a series of shootings that left one dead and three more injured — including a Montana Highway Patrol trooper — made his second court appearance in Missoula on Thursday morning. 

Johnathan Bertsch, 28, of Arlee pleaded not guilty to one count of deliberate homicide and three counts of attempted deliberate homicide at his arraignment in Missoula County Justice Court. 

28-year-old Johnathan Bertsch of Arlee pleaded not guilty to charges via video link Thursday morning. (Connor McCauley/MTN News photo)

On the night of March 14, investigators say in court documents say that Bertsch shot and killed Shelley Hays and wounded Casey and Julie Blanchard after following their vehicle from the Stone Creek Lodge at Expressway in Missoula and flashing his vehicle’s headlights at them. 

After the three victims pulled over to see if the driver needed help, Bertsch proceeded to open fire on them, which investigators say was captured on nearby surveillance footage.

Bertsch fled the scene and eventually made his way near the Evaro Bar & Casino where he shot MHP Trooper Wade Palmer, who pulled Bertsch over after recognizing the vehicle’s description from the Missoula shooting. 

Palmer remains in critical condition in a Salt Lake City hospital.

Bertsch remains at the Missoula County Detention Center on $2 million bond and will make his next court appearance on May 30. 


Several fundraising efforts have been launched to help the victims in the shooting:

You can click here to donate to a GoFundMe page in support of Trooper Palmer.

To help the family of Shelley Hays, who was killed in one of the shootings, click here. 

To help Casey Blanchard, who was also wounded, click here.