- Associated Press - Thursday, October 20, 2016

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) - A defendant who prosecutors called a drug enforcer was found guilty Thursday of deliberate homicide in the stabbing death of a man whose body was left in a creek near Creston.

Jurors deliberated about four hours before finding Robert Wittal guilty in the May 26 death of Wade Rautio. He could face 10 to 100 years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 17.

“We still have three more co-defendants,” Deputy County Attorney Andrew Clegg said after the verdict was read. “We’re not done yet.”

Earlier this year, co-defendant David Toman led Flathead County authorities to a spot where he said Rautio was killed and told officers he had witnessed the death.

Prosecutors told jurors that Wittal killed Rautio in his role as an enforcer for a drug dealer, Melisa Crone, the Daily Inter Lake reported.

Defense attorney Steven Scott argued that there was no physical evidence linking Wittal to the crime and that Crone, Toman and another man, Christopher Hansen, were part of an elaborate plot to frame Wittal.

Wittal dropped his head and cried after the verdict was read. In the gallery behind him, his mother began to sob.

Wittal, 29, testified that Crone wanted Rautio dead because of thefts and to prove her power over others. Wittal said he warned Rautio, 35, to leave town because he was in danger.

“He didn’t deserve what they did to him,” Wittal testified through tears.

Christine O’Lexey, Wittal’s girlfriend at the time of the killing, testified that Wittal had threatened to slice Rautio’s throat the day before he was killed, the Flathead Beacon reported.

Crone, 29, testified that Wittal told her that he had stabbed Rautio 100 times. A forensic scientist said Rautio had been stabbed 25 times, including a fatal cut to his jugular vein.

Crone, Hansen and Toman have pleaded not guilty to accountability to deliberate homicide in Rautio’s death.

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