Bertsch sentenced to life in prison without parole

Zoe Buchli

Johnathan Bertsch was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison without parole for a 2019 shooting just west of Missoula that left two people dead and severely injured two others.

Bertsch, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of deliberate homicide and three counts of attempted deliberate homicide in June 2020. He was given a sentence of life imprisonment without parole for each count. They were ordered to run consecutively to one another.

Missoula County District Judge Shane Vannatta presided.

In March 2019, Bertsch fired several shots at a pickup truck just west of Missoula which was carrying three people — Shelley Hays, Julie Blanchard and Casey Blanchard, Julie’s son. Shelley and Julie both died, and Casey survived after being shot eight times. While in pursuit, Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer was shot by Bertsch in his face and neck. He ultimately survived his injuries, which were described as life-threatening.

Over the two-day sentencing hearing, prosecution and defense presented arguments and called a host of individuals to testify. Prosecution witnesses, including family members of the victims, overwhelmingly asked for Bertsch to receive a life sentence.

This story will be updated.

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