BILLINGS - A Billings woman charged earlier this year with attempted murder for shooting a Billings police officer during a standoff has pleaded guilty.
Mary Ann Whitecrane, 58, appeared Friday in Yellowstone County District Court after striking a plea agreement with prosecutors in the case that began last March. According to the agreement, Whitecrane pleaded guilty to the original charge of attempted deliberate homicide in exchange for a recommendation from prosecutors that could keep her out of state prison.
The agreement states prosecutors will recommend at a sentencing hearing yet to be scheduled that Whitecrane be ordered to serve 40 years followed by an additional 10 years for the use of a firearm. Prosecutors said they would agree to allow Whitecrane to serve the sentence at a state mental health facility if such a recommendation results from a mental health evaluation and subsequent court hearing.
Prosecutors also agreed to dismiss at sentencing four felony counts of assault with a weapon and felony counts of criminal mischief and criminal endangerment.
Whitecrane was arrested in March following a 14-hour standoff that began when officers arrived at a residence on Birch Lane to investigate a weapons complaint.
During the standoff, officers knocked on Whitecrane's residence and tried to make phone contact with her to no avail, according to court records. A commander ordered officers to disengage and advised he would be activating the department's SWAT team. Officers saw movement inside the residence and were also advised that Whitecrane was armed with a shotgun and had previously told neighbors she sleeps with the gun on her bed.
The shooting happened, court records state, when Det. Michael Yarina and other SWAT officers attempted to deliver a "throw phone" into the residence in order to make contact with Whitecrane. Yarina, a 13-year veteran of the department, was struck by a shot that penetrated a ballistic shield and hit him just below the body armor and in his lower abdomen.