Judge reduces charge in 2017 Rifle murder case
June 7, 2018
A 9th Judicial District Court Judge has concluded that prosecutors haven't met their burden in proving Michael Montgomery should face first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of his son-in-law in Rifle in March 2017.
Instead, Judge Denise Lynch has decided to bind the case over as second-degree murder.
According to Colorado statute, first-degree murder is defined as both intentional and premeditated. At Montgomery's last hearing on May 24, Judge Lynch decided there wasn't enough evidence to prove the crime was planned.
Prosecutors have filed an appeal, asking a higher court to review the ruling. As a result, the case is on hold until the Court of Appeals makes a final decision.
Montgomery, 46, is accused of killing his son-in-law, Christopher Lee Gallegos, 29, in front of an apartment building in Rifle on March 29, 2017.
The crime involved many of Montgomery's family members, who are listed as witnesses in court documents. Montgomery fled Rifle after the incident and wasn't arrested until six months later in Oregon.
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On the night of the incident, Rifle Police officers received a call from someone who reported a gunshot on the 2600 block of Acacia Avenue.
Police say that when they arrived, they found a dead male lying on steps at the front of the building, with a gunshot wound to the head.
They say they retrieved a BB gun, a spent bullet and a 9-millimeter shell case near the victim.
Cassandra Brueckmann, who lived with Gallegos, said Montgomery had come to the home looking for someone named Anthony, who allegedly owed him money.
She said she noticed a gun in Montgomery's front waistband and told him Anthony wasn't home.
The documents say, after a couple of minutes, Anthony did knock on the door, and Montgomery pointed the gun at him.
The two began arguing about the owed money in the hallway, court papers say.
After a few minutes, Gallegos went to check on Anthony, who was downstairs, still arguing with Montgomery.
Brueckmann says that's when she heard a gunshot and glass breaking.
She told police she ran downstairs and found Gallegos on the ground, without a pulse.
Montgomery's daughter saw him just before the incident and told police he said to her, "I'm not here for you. I'm pissed off. I'm done," according to the court documents.
She told police he wasn't normally an angry person and that his father had been cremated just days before the shooting.
She said Gallegos was married to her sister and had recently found a new girlfriend, adding there had always been tension between Montgomery and his son-and-law.
She said a year prior, Gallegos split open Montgomery's eye.
Gallegos' new girlfriend said she tried to warn Brueckmann that Montgomery was approaching the home, armed, and looking for Anthony. She told Brueckmann to let Montgomery know Anthony wasn't at the home.
After the shooting, Gallegos' girlfriend said she saw Montgomery drive off in a white Toyota, which police say belonged to his daughter.
On March 30, the day after the shooting, one of Montgomery's daughters said she didn't know where her father was located. She said he had stayed at her house two nights before, and before that, she believed he was living under a bridge.
Police sought him out for about six more months until his final arrest on Sept. 25, 2017, as he was leaving a church in Oregon that provides meals to the needy.
Oregon officials say he may have been hiding near Snake River in rural Oregon, near the border of Idaho, to avoid capture.
He did not resist arrest, police said.
It was the only homicide case in Garfield County in 2017.
A court hearing is set for 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 16 to review the status of aforementioned appeal on the first-degree murder charge.
Further proceedings are on hold until the Colorado Court of Appeals makes a decision.
For now, Montgomery remains charged with first-degree murder, failing to appear, a series of felony drug-related charges, among other crimes.
He has remained at Garfield County Jail on more than $2 million bond since last October.