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Helena man gets life in prison for double homicide

January 25, 2020 GMT

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Helena man convicted in a 2018 double homicide has been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

Journey Ryder Wienke, 24, was sentenced Friday by District Judge Mike Menahan. Wienke was earlier found guilty of two counts of deliberate homicide in the March 2018 deaths of David and Charla Rae Taylor at their home in the Helena Valley. Prosecutors believed they were attacked with a pocket knife and a piece of rebar while in bed.

The Taylors’ adopted son, Kaleb David Taylor, pleaded guilty and is serving life without the possibility of parole. Kaleb Taylor was on probation at the time following a conviction for stealing thousands of dollars worth of items from a neighbor and his parents in 2015.

Taylor testified that Wienke and another co-defendant accompanied him to his parents’ house and that Wienke followed him inside, although he said Wienke “didn’t have anything to do with it.” A jury convicted Wienke for his involvement.

Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher and probation officer Samuel Warkentin argued Wienke should be sentenced to prison for life without the possibility of parole.

Defense attorney Lisa Kauffman said Wienke’s mother abused drugs while she was pregnant with him, setting him up for a lifetime of hardship.

Wienke was removed from his parents’ custody when he was 1 year old due to their drug use and bounced around between foster homes before being adopted, Warkentin said in his presentence report.

Kauffman argued Wienke has been provided little to no treatment for drug addiction and mental health problems and asked that he be enrolled in the state’s methamphetamine treatment program.

Wienke expressed remorse.

“There is no one to blame but myself because of my drug use,” Wienke said. “I hope you find it in your heart that I can be rehabilitated and not get life in prison.”

Menahan said he took Wienke’s troubled past and lack of a previous violent crime history into account.

“I don’t want to discount the possibility that you could demonstrate to a parole board an ability to rejoin society,” Menahan said. He said it would be up to the Department of Corrections whether to assign Wienke to the meth treatment program.