- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

SIDNEY, Mont. (AP) - A Fairview man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a Kalispell woman that he had been dating.

District Judge Elizabeth Best sentenced Cody Wayne Johnston on Tuesday for deliberate homicide and tampering with evidence for the disappearance of Nicole Waller nearly four years ago.

Prosecutors said Waller, 31, had contacted family members on Valentine’s Day 2013 and said she was breaking up with Johnston and returning to Kalispell. No one heard from her again. Her vehicle was found abandoned near Poplar.

Investigators believe Johnston killed Waller and put her body in a barrel, but Waller’s body has not been found.

Johnston was charged in August 2015 and convicted in October 2016.

Cellphone records indicate Johnston lied about his whereabouts on the day Waller went missing, that he asked around about a barrel with a lid and shut his cellphone off for about three hours, preventing law enforcement from tracking his whereabouts during that time.

A witness testified he helped Johnston move Waller’s vehicle to where it was found near Poplar and others said Johnston asked them to make posts to Waller’s Facebook page to make it look like she was still alive.

Waller’s sister and daughter spoke during the sentencing hearing, as did Johnston’s wife.

Johnston asked Best not to let him miss many of his six-month-old son’s first moments.

“As I pronounce this sentence, I want you to understand that I am not making you do anything, and I am not making you miss any firsts. Those are choices that you made, and now we are all here, and I am going to have to make a final decision of how to make you accountable for your own choices,” said Best.

Johnston said he plans to appeal his conviction.

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