County attorney files motion to dismiss homicide charge in Hungry Horse case

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James William Quen pled not guilty to a charge of felony deliberate homicide on Thursday, May 31, in Flathead District Court. Quen was charged after the death of Bradley Allen Winters. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

The Flathead County Attorney’s Office filed a motion Monday to dismiss the homicide charge against James Quen of Martin City in the shooting death of Bradley Allen Winters, citing a lack of forensic evidence and a lack of cooperation by a critical witness who failed to respond to a subpoena.

County Attorney Travis Ahner said Flathead District Judge Heidi Ulbricht is expected to make a decision on the motion soon. The case will conclude if she grants the dismissal.

According to a statement from the attorney’s office, investigations conducted by the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office patrol and detective divisions following the April 25 fatal shooting were thorough, but the “forensic evidence gathered could not account fully for the sequence of events that unfolded that night.”

The investigations sought to identify and clarify the self-defense issues in this case.

According to Ahner, the self-defense case for Quen is strong for several reasons, including the fact that “all of the individuals involved were on meth at the time” of this incident so that eye-witnesses’ testimony could not provide a clear picture of what really took place.

“Given the state of the evidence and the lack of cooperation by a critical witness who failed to respond to a subpoena, the state could not present a viable case to a jury,” the County Attorney’s statement said.

The case began late on the night of April 25 when a fight over money led to a shooting at the Hungry Horse residence where Winters lived.

Quen, 48, allegedly shot Winters in the chest after firing several rounds from a .38-caliber revolver, killing Winters.

According to court documents, the brother of the victim said Quen arrived at the residence and a dispute arose over clothes and money. He said he heard the sound of a gun cocking and then multiple shots fired. The victim’s brother said Winters was hit and Quen then left the area.

Flathead County sheriff’s deputies located Quen at about 1 a.m. April 26 and spoke with him.

He allegedly admitted to being in a dispute with the victim and his brother over money. According to court documents, Quen admitted firing rounds from the revolver during the dispute.

He also admitted that he pointed his revolver at a person and shot him, and understood that person to be Winters, the document stated.

The motion to dismiss comes one week before Quen’s anticipated trial start date of Jan. 7 and three days after Ulbricht rejected a plea agreement calling for the charge of deliberate homicide to be amended to negligent homicide.

If convicted, Quen would face 10 to 100 years in state prison for the charge of deliberate homicide.

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