Coram homicide said to be linked to meth

February 20, 2019

The early morning shooting in Coram last week that killed one man and left another charged with deliberate homicide reportedly followed an argument about methamphetamine, according to court filings.

And the subsequent homicide investigation turned up at least two portable meth labs, including one in the victim’s home, according to Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino.

Around 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 14, after receiving a report of shots fired in Coram, a police officer from Columbia Falls and a deputy from Flathead County responded to a home on Bear Street.

They found the body of William Gene Melton, 54, who was pronounced dead at the scene. The officers were provided a description of a suspect who had fled and his vehicle.

A short time later, a county deputy apprehended Martin Jay Chandler, 19, in the vicinity of the North Fork Road near Columbia Falls. Chandler is said to have most recently listed an address in Marion as his residence.

Chandler is charged with felony deliberate homicide and felony use of a firearm. For the homicide charge, he could face the death penalty, life imprisonment or a term in the state prison of not less than 10 years or more than 100 years. He remains in the custody of the Flathead County Jail on a bond of $250,000.

Authorities said last week that Melton and Chandler were believed to be acquaintances.

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed Feb. 15 by Flathead County Attorney Travis Ahner, when officers arrived at the Coram home “deputies confirmed that William Gene Melton was deceased from an apparent gunshot wound to the chest.”

The affidavit reports a witness, identified as Melton’s girlfriend, was present when Chandler “entered their residence and began to argue with Melton about methamphetamine.”

Heino said Tuesday that his office has not yet received autopsy results from the state crime lab. He said Melton was apparently shot multiple times “with a smaller caliber” weapon.

The sheriff said the investigation is ongoing.

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at dadams@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4407.