Authorities looking for Damien Hill

by Scott Shindledecker
Daily Inter Lake | June 24, 2020 7:12 AM

Flathead County law officers are seeking a man who was convicted of negligent homicide more than a decade ago.

Damien Matthew Hill, 36, was sentenced to 20 years, with 10 suspended, in 2004 for his involvement in a drunken crash that took the life of Russell Howell on May 5, 2003.

Hill’s blood alcohol level was .142 when he tried to pick up a pack of cigarettes while driving Howell’s vehicle in Whitefish on East Edgewood Drive. The car crashed with Howell perishing in the accident.

A Montana Highway Patrol trooper estimated the car was traveling between 55 and 65 miles per hour where the speed limit is posted 35 mph.

Hill was treated for injuries, then arrested on warrants. Two weeks after he was released, court documents indicate Hill was charged with being a minor in possession of alcohol after a police traffic stop.

Hill later pleaded guilty and was placed in the Montana State Prison July 14, 2004, according to court documents. On Dec. 1, 2011, he was moved to the Great Falls Transition Center, which is designed to help an inmate as they prepare for release from a correctional facility.

But only three months later, Hill was booked into the Cascade County Jail for allegedly violating his probation.

Eventually, Hill was paroled on Jan. 17, 2015, despite the fact he was found to have used drugs or alcohol, which are violations of his probation.

But things didn’t go well for Hill. A court document filed by his probation officer showed he “failed miserably” at finding and keeping a job and when he did have work, he quit several jobs because of disagreements with supervisors or so-called health issues.

The report also indicated he failed to make substantial progress in paying restitution to the victim’s mother for the loss of her son’s car and to an insurance company. He also failed to obtain his GED and was arrested in the company of a known drug dealer in Gallatin County.

When Hill appeared in Flathead County District Court in September 2018 for resentencing after violating his probation, Judge Amy Eddy gave him a 10-year suspended sentence. Probation and Parole recommended a 10-year sentence to the Montana State Prison while Hill sought a suspended sentence.

But in 2019, Hill’s problems continued when he was accused of assaulting a girlfriend on Aug. 8 in Columbia Falls. It was Hill’s third charge of partner or family member assault with the previous two occurring in 2002.

For that offense, he pleaded guilty and received a 365-day suspended sentence in the Flathead County Detention Center. He was given credit for serving one day in jail before posting bail.

But on Dec. 8, 2019, Hill was in trouble again.

According to a Probation and Parole report of violation, Hill assaulted his mother, striking her several times in the back of the head and slapping her. He left, then returned while she hid from him in the bathroom. Authorities arrested him and his probation officer in Kalispell recommended Hill’s 10-year suspended sentence be revoked and he returned to the Montana State Prison.

On Jan. 9, 2020, Hill was released from the Flathead County jail on his own recognizance. He was ordered to not drink alcohol, have contact with the victim or possess firearms.

He was also ordered to attend his next court hearing on March 12, 2020. Hill, through his public defender, filed a motion to continue the revocation hearing and it was rescheduled for May 21.

But on June 8, a warrant was issued for his arrest for violating his conditions of release.