Friday, March 2, 2012

Great Falls, MT: Murder-suicide victims identified as Great Falls couple

Officials deemed the deaths of a man and his girlfriend, who were found Monday in an eastside home, the result of a murder followed by a suicide.

Great Falls Police said Wednesday that Bryan David Smith, 41, shot 46-year-old Suzanne Rene Roberts twice in the head while she slept. He then went into another room and shot himself. Police said the deaths happened sometime around Feb. 24 — three days before their bodies were discovered in the home where two lived, located at 3501 14th Ave. S.

Public documents filed in county and municipal courts indicate that at the time of his death, Smith was thousands of dollars in debt and a misdemeanor DUI charge from last week was pending in Great Falls Municipal Court.

Smith was behind on a mortgage that he inherited after a drawn-out and contentious divorce in which he also owed money to his ex-wife — all while undergoing alcohol dependency treatment at Gateway Community Services in Great Falls.

Additional documents also show Smith was charged for with a second offense of driving under the influence last Thursday. At the time of those charges, he owed the municipal court more than $1,000 in outstanding fines from other misdemeanor offenses, including a previous DUI conviction from September.

Court documents also show a 2-year-old misdemeanor partner/family assault charge that was later dismissed as part of a deferred prosecution. According to City Attorney James Santoro, city court records show the charge eventually was dismissed after a six-month deferred prosecution agreement. Smith was ordered to undergo alcohol dependency treatment as a condition of that agreement, Santoro said.

He added that Smith's prosecution happened before Santoro was hired as city attorney, and that he has since increased the minimum deferred prosecution period — in which defendants must comply with certain conditions before their case is dropped — to one year.

In addition to his debt on the home, which documents filed in November state he hadn't paid since August, Smith already had been ordered in District Court to pay $2,250 he owed to his ex-wife, Teresa Reihl, in back payments, which he agreed to pay her for two years following their divorce in December 2010.

In response to that order, Smith filed documents indicating that he would stop paying Reihl until she returned a handgun that also was part of the divorce agreement.

A message left on Reihl's voicemail seeking comment was not returned Wednesday night.

More recently, Reihl filed a separate motion in court alleging that Smith did not comply with another agreement requiring him to remove her from the mortgage on their house on 14th Avenue South. Smith replied with a letter explaining he was in the middle of a loan modification with Wells Fargo Bank designed to reduce his payments and remove Reihl from the mortgage, but that the bank "has not been cooperative in trying to resolve this in a timely manner."

The November letter states Smith was involved with the bank's mortgage modification program since August. Smith's filing also included a letter from his case manager at Gateway, Michelle Koppany, that backed up his assertion that the bank wasn't working with him to control his debt.

Koppany wrote that Smith sent all the required paperwork needed to get the modification process running in August, but that he didn't hear back from the bank for weeks. By the time he did hear back, the bank told him the paperwork he originally sent was expired, Koppany's letter states.

"To date, there has been no recognition these documents were received and, once again, no returned calls," Koppany wrote. "Mr. Smith reports as of November 15, 2011, he has retained legal assistance with what appears to be a hopeless situation."

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