Kendall pleads not guilty to charges stemming from escape

·2 min read

Jun. 11—A sullen Jeremiah Kendall appeared in Lincoln County District Court on Monday, pleading not guilty to the slew of felony charges he picked up during his short stint on the lam in April.

It was a far cry from his May arraignment, when he pleaded guilty to a single count of escape. Taken with the idea of getting treatment for substance abuse, he told District Judge Matthew Cuffe that he had decided to turn over a new leaf in life.

But Kendall earned a 10-year sentence in the Montana State Prison without the possibility of parole for failing to turn himself in to authorities on April 9 to start his time behind bars, instead fleeing into the woods near his home south of Libby. The term is to run consecutive to the two decades behind bars he already had received in March.

Authorities subsequently charged Kendall with attempted burglary, misdemeanor theft, theft of property exceeding $5,000 and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence as well as two counts of burglary, all connected to his roughly one week on the run.

Cuffe placed Kendall on house arrest after his sentencing on charges stemming from the brutal beating of his then-girlfriend in 2014. Deemed a close contact to an individual infected with the coronavirus, Kendall had gone into quarantine pending the court date. Cuffe elected to go ahead with sentencing rather than delay it yet again, amending the previously agreed upon plea deal to put Kendall temporarily under house arrest.

Under the terms of the arrangement, Kendall was not to leave the home barring a medical emergency. Visitors were barred from entering.

On April 7, Lincoln County Sheriff's Office deputies watched Kendall disappear into the forest on a four-wheeler. In the following days, authorities said Kendall stole a Polaris side-by-side from private property, hiding it on another individual's property unbeknownst. He allegedly also stole blankets from that property owner's nearby camper.

In what authorities are calling an attempted burglary, Kendall allegedly approached another home on April 13, stopping only after spotting a surveillance camera. According to court documents, Kendall grabbed the camera and tossed it away from the home.

Deputies eventually caught up to Kendall with the help of his unwitting wife, according to court documents. Investigators suspected she remained in contact with her husband despite her denials. Tracking her vehicle, they came across Kendall on Forest Road 6092, south of Libby, on April 16.

Though he tried to flee on foot, deputies chased him down, court documents said. Jennifer Kendall was later charged with obstructing justice. She has pleaded not guilty. Another individual, Fredrick Hersel, faces the same charge for aiding Kendall during his flight. He also has pleaded not guilty.

An omnibus hearing in Jeremiah Kendall's case is scheduled for Aug. 23 with a pretrial conference to follow on Oct. 18. Were it to go to trial, it would begin Nov. 16.

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