- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Maryland woman convicted of killing her estranged husband and his girlfriend in Montana must pay nearly $37,000 for the cost of her public defender, the Montana Supreme Court has ruled.

Michelle Coller Gable had argued that District Judge Kathy Seeley did not adequately determine, during her March 2013 sentencing hearing, whether Gable had assets available to make the payment. She sought a new hearing on the issue.

Gable argued that she had not worked since 1990 and would legally lose the right to any of her husband’s assets because she had been convicted of killing him.

While the conviction meant Gable would lose any rights to Joseph Gable’s life insurance and other assets only in his name, as his wife, she would still be entitled to half of any assets listed in both of their names, the court ruled in a 5-0 decision Tuesday.

The Supreme Court found that Seeley considered the pre-sentence investigation, the state’s sentencing memorandum - which included a list of Gable’s assets - along with arguments from both the state and Gable before determining she must pay attorney costs.

The state’s sentencing memo noted Gable’s assets included vehicles, $10,000 in cash that was seized at the time of her October 2011 arrest and a checking account that had contained more than $37,000. The justices said Gable wouldn’t say who owned the account, so at least half of it was assumed to be hers.

“Gable also read a prepared statement and had the opportunity to address her ability to pay the court ordered costs recommended in the (pre-sentence investigation),” the court wrote. “Instead, Gable chose not to address, in any way, her ability to pay.”

Gable argued on appeal that the $10,000 was owed to the credit card company from which she had taken a cash advance and that the location of some of the vehicles was unknown.

She also argued that the Office of Public Defender found her indigent and agreed to represent her, but the Supreme Court said that determination was not binding on the District Court.

Gable is serving two 100-year sentences in the Montana Women’s Prison for the deaths of Joseph Gable and Sunday Cooley Bennett.

Prosecutors said she stalked her husband and Bennett, hired a private investigator and ran background checks on them before breaking into his residence in the middle of the night. She spent more than four hours in the house before awakening her husband at about 6 a.m. He confronted her about the $10,000 withdrawal and they argued. Prosecutors said Bennett fled and called 911. The shots that killed Joseph Gable were heard on the 911 call. Michelle Gable chased Bennett through the yard, shot her and then chased her into the house and shot her again, court records said.

Michelle Gable wouldn’t be eligible for parole before serving 50 years in prison.

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