Parizeau receives max sentence for endangerment

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Joseph Parizeau was sentenced to 10 years in prison in connection with the death of Cassandra Harris.

A Big Arm man will spend the next 10 years behind bars without the possibility of parole following a sentencing last week in connection with the June 2018 death of a Ronan woman.

Joseph Conko Parizeau, 23, was handed the maximum sentence for criminal endangerment, after he was originally charged with homicide for the death of 24-year-old Cassandra Harris on Wednesday, Jan. 30 in front of District 20 Court Judge James A. Manley.

Parizeau was originally scheduled for a jury trial in December 2018, but a plea agreement was reached between Lake County Attorney Steven Eschenbacher and Parizeau’s counsel, Brian C. Smith out of Missoula.

Court documents allege that Parizeau pushed Harris out of a moving vehicle in the McDonald Lake area after Harris met up with Parizeau, Donnovan Sherwood, 19, of Ravalli, and Julia Vaile, 18, of Missoula.

A charge against a fourth person, Gale Hendrickx III, of Pablo, was dismissed out of Lake County Justice Court.

According to court documents, Parizeau is described as “a serious danger to the community. The nature of the crime and defendant’s actions afterward were callous and heinous.”

Eschenbacher said Tuesday that he is “glad the judge gave (Parizeau) the maximum punishment.”

He added that Parizeau is currently at the Lake County Jail awaiting another court appearance in April for another case. Following that outcome, Parizeau will be transported to the Montana Department of Corrections.

Smith said that while he and Parizeau are disappointed with the sentence, they didn’t expect Manley to enforce the parole restriction.

He also added that he doesn’t feel that the public has “the right idea” of Parizeau.

“He’s a young kid who’s growing up,” Smith said, adding that Parizeau has been blamed “for things that aren’t really provable.”

Eschenbacher explained to the court in December that ethically, he could not charge Parizeau with negligent homicide, further acknowledging that the decision would make him “unpopular” with the public.

In the plea agreement, the homicide charge was amended to criminal endangerment.

Three tampering charges were also dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

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