- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A Colorado man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to killing his wife 15 years ago in Montana.

Brian David Laird entered his plea during a brief hearing before Judge Blair Jones in Hardin, according to the Big Horn County Clerk of District Court’s office.

He was returned to custody in the county jail on a $500,000 bond. A trial date was set for March.

Laird is charged with deliberate homicide in the July 31, 1999, death of 28-year-old Kathryn Laird. The 46-year-old former attorney waived extradition to Montana following his Sept. 11 arrest in Colorado.

The couple met in Texas as undergraduate students at Southern Methodist University, according to court documents.

They later moved to Fort Smith, Montana, where they both worked in the fishing industry. They had been married less than six months when the victim’s badly bruised body was found floating in a bay below Yellowtail Dam near Fort Smith.

Neighbors of the couple apparently were not questioned in the case until the FBI interviewed them two years ago. They reported a bitter argument on the night of Kathryn Laird’s death, according to court documents.

According to prosecutors, Laird told the FBI that his wife drove off from their trailer house following an argument on the night that she died and he never saw her alive again.

The case is being prosecuted by attorneys from the Montana Department of Justice.

The agency has said little about the investigation into Laird, and it is uncertain when he became a suspect. He is represented by J. Thomas Bartleson with the major crimes unit in the Montana Office of the State Public Defender.

Bartleson declined to comment on the case following Wednesday’s hearing.

Court documents show Laird was questioned extensively about the case in 2002 when he sought a license to practice law in Missouri. He was licensed to practice law in Colorado until 2008, when he was placed on inactive status a year after pleading guilty to driving while impaired.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty or a minimum 10 years to life in prison.

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