HELENA — Journey Wienke – the third and final man to be sentenced in connection with a 2018 double murder in the Helena Valley – has learned that he will spend decades in state prison.
Wienke had a sentencing hearing Friday for his role in the deaths of David and Charla Taylor. District Court Judge Mike Menahan sentenced the 24-year-old to life in prison, but allowed him to apply for parole after 30 years. He will receive credit for almost two years of time served.
In October, a Lewis and Clark County jury convicted Wienke on two counts of deliberate homicide and one count of tampering with physical evidence in connection with the Taylors’ deaths.
The victims’ bodies were found in their home on Cayuse Road in March 2018. Investigators said they received extensive blunt-force and sharp-force injuries.
Wienke admitted he went to the home that night, along with the Taylors’ son Kaleb and another man, Kyle Hamm. Prosecutors said Wienke was present in the home when Kaleb Taylor attacked and killed his parents. They argued he was also responsible for the deaths – either directly, because he participated in the murders, or legally, because he and Taylor planned to rob the house and the deaths occurred in the course of that crime.
The jury found Wienke participated directly in the murders.
At Friday’s hearing, Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher pointed to Wienke’s previous arrests and drug use – as well as incidents he has been involved with since being in jail – to argue he is not likely to rehabilitate himself.
“He has been given opportunity after opportunity since he was 12 years old to try to get whatever demons are inside him dealt with in a safe way through the programming that is available in our state, and he’s simply not done it,” Gallagher said.
However, defense attorney Lisa Kauffman argued Wienke had not been given the serious mental health or drug abuse treatment that he needs. She said – in light of his age, history of childhood trauma and consistent substance use – he could still make himself a contributing member of society if given the chance.
Wienke himself also spoke at the hearing, expressing remorse for his role in the Taylors’ deaths.
“I feel terrible about this situation, and I’m deeply sorry for the events that took place,” he said. “I don’t believe any family deserves to go through that. I don’t know how to express it any differently. I hope you find it in your heart that I can be rehabilitated.”
Menahan said he had to determine the appropriate sentences for all three suspects based on their level of responsibility for the murders. Kaleb Taylor, who pleaded guilty to killing his parents, received two life sentences without the chance of parole. Kyle Hamm, who was found guilty of deliberate homicide under the “felony murder” rule rather than for actively participating, was sentenced last week to 80 years in prison.
Menahan said his sentence was an attempt to balance the severity of the crimes with the other mitigating factors.
“You may be an entirely different person when you do become parole eligible, and that is something that also bears in my decision today,” he told Wienke. “That's a big factor for me, because I don't want to discount the possibility that at some point you'd be able to demonstrate to the parole board that you could be placed back into the community.”
Journey Wienke, the third and final man sentenced in connection with a 2018 double murder in the Helena Valley, was sentenced to life in prison.
Wienke will be parole eligible after 30 years.
District Court Judge Mike Menahan announced Wienke’s sentence after a hearing Friday afternoon.
In October, a jury convicted Wienke on two counts of deliberate homicide, in connection with the deaths of David and Charla Taylor. The Taylors’ bodies were found in their home on Cayuse Road in March 2018.
Wienke went to the victims’ home that night, along with their son Kaleb and another man, Kyle Hamm. Kaleb Taylor has admitted he then attacked and killed his parents.
The jury found Wienke guilty of participating in both murders.
Kaleb Taylor is already serving two life sentences in prison, after he pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide. Hamm was also convicted of deliberate homicide in October. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison last week.