Evan Oungst entered a guilty plea Monday, May 6, 2019, before substitute Judge Kevin Kline, for his involvement in the murder of Wayne Valliere, Jr., in Iron County in December 2017.
5/9/2019 7:30:00 AM Oungst pleads guilty to reckless homicide Fourth of five defendants in Valliere case enters plea
Abigail Bostwick of the Lakeland Times
"He's ready to plead guilty today," said Milwaukee attorney Micheal Steinle, sitting next to his client Evan Oungst on Monday afternoon in a Price County courtroom.
When asked for his plea to second degree reckless homicide by omission, the 29-year-old Arbor Vitae man confirmed: "Guilty."
Oungst, who had been charged with first degree intentional homicide (with a dangerous weapon, party to a crime) and hiding a corpse (as a habitual criminal as party to a crime) in the December 2017 murder of Wayne Valliere, Jr., Lac du Flambeau, with four others, had been slated for jury trial in Iron County Circuit Court before reaching the plea agreement with the state. His team of three lawyers requested a substitute judge several months ago, which led to the hearing before Price County Judge Kevin Kline in his courtroom.
Besides the murder counts, Oungst had another 14 felony charges of harboring/aiding a felon and providing prescription drugs during and after the beating and shooting death of Valliere filed against him. Oungst is said to have relayed directions to and from the murder scene to help everyone get away with the crime. He also grabbed some of the clothes worn during the murder and got rid of them, in addition to doling out his prescription Gabepentin to the others. He also helped one defendant flee the area by giving him a ride north of the county. Evidence was found in his truck.
Fighting for Oungst has been Thomas Wilmouth and Amy O'Melia, Hazelhurst, and Mike Steinle of Milwaukee, who came on the case later.
Prosecution in all cases related to Valliere's death have been assistant attorneys general Richard Dufour and Chad Verbeten of Madison.
In court, Steinle acknowledged, "(Oungst) had a legal duty to summon law enforcement officers and other assistance to otherwise provide assistance to (Valliere)."
With the plea paperwork in front of him, a steady Oungst spoke clearly to Judge Klein when questioned if he understood the deal he was accepting and its ramifications, which included admitting guilt to seven counts of harboring/aiding a felon plus four counts of manufacture/deliver a prescription drug.
"Guilty on each count, your honor," Oungst confirmed for the judge. He corroborated being of sound mind, clear of any drugs or adverse mental or physical state that day.
"He had more than enough time before today ... to see the plea ... and consider it. We've gone over it," Steinle observed.
As part of the agreement, counts dismissed and read in for future sentencing were hiding a corpse and the rest of the counts of providing a prescription drug as party to a crime and one charge harboring/aiding a felon. A Vilas County felony count of harboring/aiding a felon and resisting/obstructing an officer also was dismissed and read in - though not officially a formal consolidated into the entire case, Dufour noted.
Covered with the deal, Oungst waived all rights for a jury trial.
"This will resolve all possible state criminal violations, as known of this date," Kline said.
"We do not anticipate any additional counts as it relates to the conduct of the defendant or as it relates to his case or any other case," Dufour explained.
No fines were requested by the state, though restitution for family funeral expenses shared along with the co-defendants was expected.
Kline reminded Oungst that if, at any time, his sentence is revoked, he could be sentenced to the maximum penalty.
"I do wish to plead guilty, your honor," Oungst replied.
The proposed punishment, according to the plea deal, is 25 years in prison for the homicide change (15 incarcerated, 10 on extended supervision).
On the remaining charges, no more than 30 to 40 aggregate years imprisonment has been suggested.
"Unless the pre-sentence investigation recommends a greater amount," Dufour told the court. That investigation is set to begin soon, with sentencing expected in late September. "The state is free to argue up to that amount."
Kline approved the plea agreement and announced Oungst convicted of the crimes. His bond was revoked at that same time.
"He's ready to go into custody today," Steinle said.
Following the proceedings, Oungst was immediately taken into custody to be delivered to the Iron County Jail. He'll be kept separate from Curtis Wolfe, who is awaiting a December jury trial, and any of the other defendants if they are brought in to testify in any of the court matters. Prior, Oungst had been the only of the defendants to get house and GPS monitoring at his parents' Arbor Vitae residence on a $25,000 cash bond. That bond was ordered to be returned to his parents Monday.
Arrested and jailed with Oungst in the death were Richard Allen, 28; Joseph Lussier, 28; James Lussier, 20; and Wolfe, 27, all of Lac du Flambeau.
Witnesses told authorities the men had been at a party and around the Vilas County area before taking Valliere on a ride to the remote woods of Mercer at Oungst's directions. Some of the defendants say Valliere knew all along he was going to die, while others said they were picking on Valliere "in a playful manner." All the men were reportedly on meth and Gabepentin, provided by Oungst.
Valliere was taken from the van, beaten and shot in the face by Allen then in the neck and back by Joseph Lussier. Both were convicted and imprisoned for life following a jury trial last summer.
Valliere's frozen body was found days after he was reported missing, dumped behind a dirt road embankment in rural Mercer off Moose Lake Road. He'd been reported gone around Christmas by his family, missing him at the holiday.
"He was a wonderful kid with a big heart," observed his father, Wayne Valliere, Sr. post-hearing. "It's changed our lives tremendously. We are not the same people anymore. We have to somehow pick up the pieces and try and figure out how to move forward with our lives. Our whole world was affected by what happened."
As for the other defendants, after testifying against his brother and Allen, James Lussier pled guilty to lesser charges and was remanded to 15 years prison in January. Wolfe, who has not taken any plea agreements offered, will stand trial in December.
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