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Man arrested in connection with Whitefish death pleads not guilty

Xavier Chenault
Posted at 10:16 AM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 12:16:03-05

KALISPELL — A California man who is accused in the death of Whitefish man outside of the VFW Bar and Grill in Whitefish last summer pleaded not guilty to a charge of felony negligent homicide in Flathead County District Court on Thursday.

Xavier Chenault, 22, of Sacramento, is being charged with felony negligent homicide in the death of 25-year old Steven Speer.

According to charging documents, Whitefish Police were called to the VFW Bar and Grill on July 30 where they found Speer unresponsive with a severe head injury.

Individuals at the scene -- including Chenault -- indicated to officers that no fight had occurred and informed officers that Speer was intoxicated and had fallen to the ground.

A Whitefish Police Department investigation -- including security footage and interviews with additional witnesses -- found that Speer had been in an altercation with Chenault and that the victim had been knocked to the ground.

Speer was transported to the hospital on the night of the incident and later died from his injuries on Aug. 2.

An autopsy report from the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula indicated that Speer died as a result of blunt force injuries of the head.

The Whitefish Police Department worked with law enforcement in California to locate Chenault after he fled to that state following the incident.

Chenault faces up to 20 years in Montana State Prison and a maximum fine of $50,000 if found guilty on the charges.

Judge Robert Allison reduced Chenault’s bail to $75,000. He was remanded to the custody of the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office.