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'I was shot in the back of the head:' Victim testifies on first day of DeWise murder trial

Joseph Paul DeWise accused of deliberate homicide in death of wife, Lauren DeWise
Posted at 7:52 PM, Dec 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-04 16:19:14-05

BOZEMAN — Dramatic testimony Tuesday in the murder trial for Joseph Paul DeWise.

DeWise is accused of killing his wife and shooting another woman multiple times on Jan. 7, 2018 at their home in Belgrade.

"I actually started to talk to her and as I walked closer to the...to the threshold of the door, I saw that she was dead," says Audria Butler, who owned and lived in the home shared by Lauren DeWise.

Butler recounts the night she found Lauren DeWise dead and another woman critically wounded — both shot while they were sleeping.

“Ashley was laying on the floor," Butler says. "There was a lot of blood in my memory. She was awake. Her eyes were wide open and she said please help me.”

Butler says Lauren moved into her home in mid-November of 2017, afraid, accusing DeWise of abuse.

“She sort of out of the blue actually said I want to tell you something," Butler says. "Can I tell you something that I haven’t shared with anybody before? I said okay and she said I’ve been married for 10 years. My husband has been abusing me for a really long time.”

The woman who survived the shooting, Ashley Van Hemert, took the stand herself.

"I was shot in the back of the head," Van Hemert says. "I was shot in the right carotid artery and I know I was shot in my right side, as well. From my gunshot wound to the head, I lost my peripheral vision to my left side so now have to wear a prism now on my left lens and it helps me.”

Van Hemert described an evening with her boyfriend, Ralph Dennis, who had dropped her off the night before.

That’s all she remembers before she says she woke up in the hospital.

PROSECUTOR: “What’s the next thing that you can remember after going to bed?”

VAN HEMERT: “This was no and this is yes," gesturing with her thumb, remembering being in the hospital.

Dennis says at one point, he was considered primary suspect, with an on-and-off past with Van Hemert.

The defense argues that several others could have been the shooter, including Dennis.

While Butler says with DeWise having shown up several times at her house in the days leading up to what happened, she believes it was the man sitting in the defendant’s chair.

"Because of all of the threatening things that he had said to Lauren, because of the terror that he had already caused her because of the aggressive things that he had said to me," Butler says.

Again, this trial is expected to take 10 days to get to a point where we may hear a verdict.

During all of that time, DeWise will remain at the detention center on $1 million bail.