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Trude set for sentence review in negligent homicide case

Posted at 6:04 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 20:50:57-04

HELENA — The man who pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in the 2018 shooting death of a Helena doctor could be considered for conditional release this summer.

According to a release Wednesday from the Missoula Assessment Sanction Center, Montana Department of Corrections staff has completed assessments on Gregg Trude. Based on those assessments, they recommended he be considered for conditional release, with supervision from the Probation and Parole Division. If he were granted that release, he would be required to meet all court-ordered conditions, as well as any other conditions set by Probation and Parole.

This announcement was only a recommendation, not a final decision. The Department of Corrections will make the determination of any future placement for Trude.

Trude pleaded guilty last year, in connection with the death of Dr. Eugene “Buzz” Walton. The two men were returning from a hunting trip on Oct. 28, 2018. Walton was pulling his rifle out of the back seat of Trude’s truck when Trude’s rifle went off.

District Court Judge Michael McMahon sentenced Trude to 20 years in prison, with all but 3 ½ years suspended. He initially said Trude would not be eligible for parole until he served a full 3 ½ years.

However, earlier this year, Trude reached an agreement with prosecutors – giving him the ability to seek parole or a review of his sentence, in exchange for dropping a challenge to McMahon’s impartiality and paying $3.7 million in restitution to Walton’s wife, Leslie.

Under the agreement, prosecutors will not appear in opposition at Trude’s parole or sentence review hearing. If he receives parole or a reduced sentence, Trude agrees to spend 500 hours on a hunter safety course or other form of community service.

According to court documents, Leslie Walton opposed the agreement. She and her children will still be allowed to oppose parole or sentence review.

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected. The original article said Trude would have a hearing before the state Board of Pardons and Parole in July. Trude will not be seen by that board, because he is currently under the authority of the Montana Department of Corrections. We apologize for the error.