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Judge rejects new trial for Montana man convicted in murder

November 30, 2018

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge has denied a new trial for a man convicted of murdering a woman on Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation and rejected accusations that the government withheld evidence in the case.

U.S. District Judge Susan Watters said in a Monday ruling that prosecutors properly disclosed the existence of a cellphone with a calendar entry referencing the death of victim Roylynn Rides Horse once they found out about it.

The judge said even if the calendar entry had been submitted during Dimarzio Swade Sanchez’s trial, other evidence in the case was sufficient to support his conviction.

Rides Horse died two months after being strangled, doused with gasoline and lit on fire in June 2016.

The calendar entry described someone beating and kicking Rides Horse and expressing remorse for not telling the truth.

Sanchez’s attorneys had claimed the entry contradicted testimony from several witnesses who implicated him, including two co-defendants who pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

The phone allegedly was bought and sold by several different individuals before a woman saw the message regarding Rides Horse and notified authorities. Federal agents testified it was unknown when the calendar entry was created or who owned the phone at the time.

It was brought to the attention of federal agents on Dec. 8, 2017 — the day after Sanchez was found guilty following a four-day jury trial.

“The government did nothing wrong in the handling of the evidence in the case,” said Clair Johnson Howard, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Billings.

Attorneys for Sanchez did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Watters set sentencing in the case for Dec. 21. Sanchez is facing life in prison.

Two accomplices previously admitted their involvement in Rides Horse’s death. Sanchez’s brother, Frank, pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and Angelica Jo Whiteman pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting first-degree murder.

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