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Man arrested in connection with Whitefish death pleads guilty

Xavier Chenault
Posted at 10:17 AM, Apr 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 11:39:41-04

KALISPELL — A California man who is accused in the death of a man outside of the VFW in Whitefish last summer pleaded guilty to a charge of felony negligent homicide in Flathead County District Court on Thursday.

Xavier Chenault, 22, of Sacramento, originally pleaded not guilty in January in the death of 25-year-old Steven Speer of Whitefish.

Chenault signed a binding plea agreement on April 6 and is facing a 15-year sentence to the Montana State Prison with 10 years suspended.

Chenault’s sentencing is set for May 20.

According to charging documents, Whitefish Police were called to the VFW Bar and Grill on July 30 where they found Speer unresponsive with a severe head injury.

Individuals at the scene -- including Chenault -- indicated to officers that no fight had occurred and informed officers that Speer was intoxicated and had fallen to the ground.

A Whitefish Police Department investigation which included security footage and interviews with additional witnesses found that Speer had been in an altercation with Chenault and that the victim had been knocked to the ground.

Speer was transported to the hospital on the night of the incident and later died from his injuries on Aug. 2.

During testimony on Thursday, Chenault told District Judge Robert Allison that he was “taking responsibility for my actions” by changing his plea to guilty.

Chenault told Judge Allison that “Speer was a friend of mine” and that they lived and worked together.