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Whitefish murder suspect pleads not guilty

by DERRICK PERKINS
Hagadone News Network | February 15, 2023 1:00 AM

The man charged with the shooting death of a neighbor in a Whitefish extended-stay hotel pleaded not guilty to one count of deliberate homicide in Flathead County District Court on Thursday.

Steven Justin Hedrick, 32, entered the courtroom with the help of a walker while donning an inmate’s orange uniform. He has remained in the county jail with bail set at $750,000 since his arrest late last month.

Flanked by detention center officers, Hedrick answered Judge Amy Eddy’s questions with attorney Lane Bennett by his side, though he criticized the prosecution’s stance on the alleged shooting. Asked if he understood the proceedings, Hedrick initially replied with a no.

“He said no because there are some issues about how it’s been charged that we haven’t discussed,” Bennett told Eddy by way of explanation.

Asked again, Hedrick took the opportunity to criticize the County Attorney’s Office.

“I understand [Deputy County Attorney] Andrew Clegg misrepresents the law,” Hedrick said.

Whitefish Police officers detained Hedrick after responding to the U.S. 93 South building following multiple reports of a gunshot on Jan. 24 at about 1:27 a.m., officials said. He was one of several people standing outside the hotel when officers arrived and identified himself as the suspect when asked, court documents said.

The shooting followed a disagreement over noise, according to court documents. Hedrick and his victim had earlier argued over the latter’s banging and yelling on the door of his ex-girlfriend’s home, which was down the hall from Hedrick’s quarters.

When the knocking resumed, Hedrick allegedly grabbed a revolver and placed it on a nearby counter before opening the door to confront the victim again. During the ensuing exchange, the victim yelled and “postured” at Hedrick, court documents said.

Hedrick allegedly raised the gun and the victim grabbed at it, getting a hand on the barrel before the firearm went off. It sent a bullet through the victim’s mouth, court documents said.

Responding officers found the victim laying on his back on the first floor of the building, dead, according to court documents.

Eddy set an omnibus hearing in the case for Feb. 22 with a pretrial conference to follow on March 8. A status hearing is scheduled for April 3.