Family and friends of Amanda Hillious exhaled with relief Tuesday afternoon as her convicted killer and husband was handed the maximum sentence for deliberate homicide.
Bradley Jay Hillious, 35, was found guilty of the murder during a January trial in Flathead District Court. On Tuesday, having had his request for a new trial denied, Hillious held his face in his hands as Judge Robert Allison sentenced him to 100 years in state prison.
Hillious was accused of beating and strangling his wife, Amanda, before throwing her down a flight of stairs during a fight inside their home on Dec. 15, 2020.
Amanda, a mother of four, died four days later.
Amanda’s parents embraced as the sentencing was read Tuesday.
Her mother, Michelle Wungluck, took the stand earlier in the hearing to ask that Hillious receive the maximum sentence.
“I am sentenced to life without my daughter now,” she told the courtroom in a tearful testimony.
She spoke about becoming a mother at age 16 when Amanda was born.
“I was a baby. They placed her in my arms and that was it. I knew my life had changed,” she said. “She was loved by so many. She lived a wonderful life.”
Wungluck told the courtroom that she is raising Amanda’s four children now, and that she “wants those kids to grow up knowing they are safe and secure.”
“Give those kids a chance, please,” she told the courtroom.
Amanda’s father, Chris Maciel, also took the stand to address Hillious. Looking at the man convicted of murdering his daughter, he told the courtroom he was a firm believer in “an eye for an eye” and requested the maximum sentence.
Hillious, who did not testify in the trial, maintained his innocence as he finally addressed the courtroom at his sentencing.
His voice and hands shook as turned to face the gallery to read his statement, while Amanda’s parents looked away for the entire 12-minute testimony.
“I miss her beyond belief … and our children,” he sobbed.
He pointed the finger at his father, Scott Hillious, as the “more likely suspect.”
Scott killed himself on Dec. 24, 2020, after a detective called to ask if Hillious and his father could come in for an interview.
“He was afraid to lose his freedom,” Hillious said of his father. “He was afraid to go to jail, and ultimately took his own life.”
The point of Scott Hillious’ suicide will likely be a sticking point as the case moves to the appeals court, as Hillious’ attorney Jami Rebsom indicated it would.
In her remarks, Rebsom told the court the defense was never allowed to argue a case around Scott’s suicide.
“How can it not be seen as a confession?” she asked the courtroom in her remarks. “All the evidence points to Scott.”
Judge Allison addressed that point in his remarks, noting that “many issues” brought up in the case will likely be handled at the appellate level.
“I was somewhat startled to find out I had restricted the defense in addressing the suicide of Scott,” Allison said. “My recollection is that immediately before the trial there was alarm expressed by the defense counsel that the state was going to (argue) that the defendant had killed Scott. And that there might be evidence along those lines presented.”
“… we didn’t want to get off into those weeds,” he continued, noting that the attorneys were only allowed to address Scott’s death “as his death or suicide, not his questionable death or possible murder. We didn’t want to get into that because that would have served as a distraction.”
Hillious’ attorneys had requested a new trial in a filing last month, on the grounds that prosecutors made improper comments during closing arguments, and that evidence suggests a lesser charge of mitigated homicide should have been pursued.
Allison denied that motion at a hearing Monday. At the sentencing, he said he never heard any evidence at the trial regarding a lesser charge.
“It was an all-or-nothing approach,” he said of the defense’s case.
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