Man pleads not guilty to Coram homicide

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Martin J. Chandler, center, is led away after his arraignment hearing with Judge Heidi J. Albrecht in Flathead County District Court in Kalispell on Thursday. Chandler is charged with felony deliberate homicide and felony use of a firearm after he allegedly shot and killed William Gene Melton in Martin City on Feb. 14. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

During his arraignment Thursday morning, Martin J. Chandler pleaded not guilty to charges of felony deliberate homicide and felony use of a firearm following a Feb. 14 shooting in Coram that left another man dead.

Flathead District Court Judge Heidi Ulbricht accepted his plea and set a pretrial hearing is scheduled for July 17. Should Chandler, 19, be found guilty of the homicide charge, he could face the death penalty, life imprisonment or a time in state prison of no less than 10 years.

On Feb. 14 around 1:30 a.m., police officers from Columbia Falls and a deputy from Flathead County responded to reports of gunshots off Bear Street in Coram. Upon arrival, they found the body of William Gene Melton, 54, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

A description of the suspect, who had already fled the scene, and his vehicle were provided to the officers. Shortly after, Chandler was apprehended in the Columbia Falls area near the North Fork Road. Authorities say Melton and Chandler were believed to be acquaintances.

An affidavit of probable cause filed by Flathead County Attorney Travis Ahner states “deputies confirmed that William Gene Melton was deceased from an apparent gunshot wound to the chest.” The report also said Melton’s girlfriend was at the residence when Chandler entered and began arguing with him about methamphetamine.

According to Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino, two portable meth labs, one of which was in the victim’s home, were found during an investigation.

Chandler is being represented by defense attorney Liam Gallagher.

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