Teen Murder Suspect Seeks to Have Case Moved to Youth Court
18 year-old Preston Rossbach appeared before District Judge Leslie Halligan on Thursday seeking to have his deliberate homicide case moved from District Court to Youth Court.
Prosecutor Jordan Kilby described the facts of the case that began in October, 2018 at a motel in downtown Missoula.
“The facts of the case are that he and his co-defendant went into the room at the Mountain Valley Inn,” said Kilby. “His co-defendant (Jonathan Whitmore) shot and killed two people and shot a third person who survived. The allegations are that Preston Rossbach had a knife and stabbed one of the decedents as they were dying, stabbed the individual who lived and then they ran out of the room.”
Kilby described the reason for Thursday’s court hearing.
“The defense attorney for Preston Rossbach filed a motion to have this case transferred back to youth court,” she said. “Preston was 18 at the time of the homicide. He had just turned 18 less than a week prior, so we charged it in District Court just as the statute requires,”
Kilby said there are major differences between trying Rossbach as an adult as opposed to as a minor.
“Youth Court could only retain jurisdiction over him for a handful of years, either until he is 21 or 25,” she said. “They would not have services to incarcerate him or treat him, so it is not a case that should be prosecuted in youth court. As an adult, deliberate homicide is the most serious charge there is, so the penalty would be life or 100 years in the Montana State Prison. In Youth Court, they could arguably have jurisdiction over him until he was 21. He could possibly be transferred to the Department of Corrections until he’s 21 or 25. He is 19 now, so at the most he would be in their jurisdiction for six more years.”
Judge Halligan took the case under advisement and will issue her ruling at a later date.
Rossbach’s co-defendant Jonathan Whitmore will have a status hearing on December 11 and will go to trial on April 20.