Murder trial of Ronan man remains in Lake County

by Scott Shindledecker
Daily Inter Lake | June 25, 2020 12:39 PM

The murder trial of a Colorado man accused in the beating death of another man at an RV park in Ronan last summer will remain in Lake County.

William Lowrey Hesse II, 54, of Denver, faces one count of deliberate homicide and one count of fabricating physical evidence, for his alleged role in the death of 63-year-old Gyme Kelly on Aug. 31, 2019, at the Mission Meadows RV Park in Ronan.

His attorneys, Alisha Backus and Toby Cook, both of the state Public Defender’s Office, filed the motion Feb. 6 in Lake County District Court. Cook has since left the case and Dianne Rice was appointed to take his place.

Lake County District Judge Jason Marks denied the motion for a change of venue for the trial during a hearing on June 11.

He also denied motions to dismiss the charges and to change Hesse’s bail status from a $1 million bond to released on his own recognizance.

A hearing was scheduled June 26 to dismiss the charges due to the lack of a speedy trial.

Hesse’s trial is currently scheduled to begin Monday, July 27.

In the motion to have the trial moved. Hesse’s attorneys assert that his ability to receive a fair trial would be difficult because of media coverage in Lake and Missoula counties.

But Marks disagreed, saying he didn’t believe pretrial publicity has been so pervasive or prejudicial that Hesse would be deprived of a fair trial by an impartial jury.

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed by Lake County Attorney Steven N. Eschenbacher, Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Larson was called to assist in a potential homicide investigation on Aug. 31, 2019 because he had dealt with a man at the same residence at 3 a.m. in the morning of the same date.

Kelly was found on the floor of a fifth-wheel camper at the RV park. Larson interviewed a woman who was playing pool at a bar in Pablo with Hesse and Kelly. The trio left and drove to Kelly’s camper where they drank and told stories. The woman said Hesse and Kelly began to argue and the woman and Kelly decided to go for a walk.

The woman told Larson that while she and the victim were gone, Hesse broke several items in the camper and threw a small barbecue through a window. The destruction caused such a commotion that neighbors called law enforcement. When Larson arrived, he told Hesse to go back in and sleep it off.

After the deputy left, Kelly and the woman returned and discovered the damage. She said Kelly was upset and told Hesse to leave, but he refused. The woman said the two men wrestled before an actual fight began. She said Kelly suffered from a breathing problem that necessitated the use of supplemental oxygen.

According to the court document, the fight escalated when Hesse tackled Kelly and kicked and beat him with closed fists.

The woman said she yelled at Hesse to stop, but he continued to hit or kick Kelly while he was on the ground and helpless.

For the next few hours, with breaks in between, the woman said Hesse returned to punch or kick the man. She said she tried to avoid the confrontation because she was afraid Hesse would assault her.

Then, sometime in the early morning hours, she left. She said she returned periodically to check on Kelly, who was still on the floor of the camper.

At about 3 p.m. Aug. 31, the woman said she checked on Kelly and she couldn’t find a pulse. She said she convinced Hesse to call 911 and he did.

When Kelly was examined at the Montana State Crime Lab, it showed he suffered from blunt force trauma by his ribs being caved in on both sides. Coupled with his breathing problems, which led to asphyxiation, caused Kelly’s death. The broken ribs were a direct result of the beating he had sustained.

According to the court document, during their investigation, law enforcement officers found Hesse’s clothes were soaked, as if to remove the blood that was on them.

The clothes were allegedly placed in a trash can at the nearby RV park showers. Larson indicated the clothes conformed to the ones Hesse was wearing when the officer first saw him for the noise disturbance call.

The fact that the clothes were hidden from officers is the basis for the tampering charge, according to the court document.

Hesse is facing 10 to 100 years in the Montana State Prison on the homicide charge and a maximum of 10 years on the tampering charge.