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Slater Sentenced For Criminal Endangerment

A case involving a young Bainville man being killed in a crash during the summer of 2021, resulted in the sentencing of another young man in district court on Tuesday, Sept. 27.

According to court documents, Wyatt Wade Slater was racing another vehicle at a high rate of speed, approximately 112 miles per hour, and had a high blood-alcohol concentration on July 27, 2021. The outcome was a collision and the death of Brennen Bruce Brunelle, 23, in Roosevelt County. A preliminary breath test showed Slater with a blood alcohol content of 0.240 percent.

Following a plea agreement, district judge David J. Cybulski sentenced Slater to five years, with two years suspended, with the Department of Corrections for criminal endangerment; one year, with 335 days served, for aggravated DUI, second offense; six months, all suspended, for driving with a suspended license; and one year for leaving the scene of an accident to run concurrently with the criminal endangerment charge.

Slater was also ordered to pay restitution of $24,226 to the Brunelle family for reimbursement for funeral expenses and the damage caused to Brunelle’s vehicle.

“The big picture is trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Judge Cybulski said. “The real question is can you quit drinking permanently?”

Slater answered, “Yes, sir.”

The judge noted that the sentence doesn’t necessarily mean prison. The Department of Corrections will conduct an evaluation for a treatment program.

“You realize no beer ever, done, and your life will be better because of it,” Cybulski said to the defendant.

County attorney Frank Piocos said that it was a challenging case. “I didn’t seek the maximum,” Piocos said during the hearing. “But, I also was mindful of the criminal history.” He added that Slater had a blood alcohol content of three times the legal limit.

The hearing included testimony from two Montana Highway Patrol officers and from the mothers of both the victim and defendant.

The recording of the 911 dispatch call from the scene created many tears from family members and friends in the packed courtroom.

The judge was provided many written impact statements from Brunelle’s family members and friends.

After Brunelle’s mother read her impact statement aloud during the hearing, many in the courtroom shed tears including the defendant.

Slater’s mother testified, “There’s no words that we can say as a family how it affected you guys to take the pain away.”

She said she hurts and prays for the Brunelle family often. “That night changed all of us. They were cousins, they were friends, they were best friends,” she said. “I don’t think either would intentionally hurt the other.”

Later, Slater faced the family and said he was sorry and wishes he could change everything. “It kills me inside.”

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