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January 17, 2020

1/14/2020 7:30:00 AM
Oungst 'haunted by the ramifications' of Valliere murder
Sentencing scheduled for Jan. 27
Abigail Bostwick
Of The Lakeland Times

Evan Oungst of Arbor Vitae is scheduled to sentenced this month for his involvement in the December 2017 execution-style beating and killing of Wayne Valliere Jr., 25, Lac du Flambeau.

In Iron County Circuit Court last week, Oungst's three defense attorneys filed various documents in advance of the Jan. 27 sentencing hearing, including a memorandum in supports of reduction of his sentence for "substantial assistance to authorities."

Further, Oungst, 29, wrote a 7-page letter to the judge expressing his remorse in the crime.

The murder of Valliere

Last autumn, Oungst pled guilty to amended charges, down from the initial felonies of 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). Those amended charges included second-degree reckless homicide by omission in one case and seven counts of harboring/aiding a felon and four counts delivery of a prescription drug as party to a crime in another case.

The remaining charges of hiding a corpse in the first case and harboring/aiding a felon and manufacture/delivery of a prescription drug are to be dismissed and read into the record at sentencing.

Also arrested in the murder were Richard Allen, 29, Joseph Lussier, 28, James Lussier, 21, and Curtis Wolfe, 28, all of Lac du Flambeau. They all faced the same intentional homicide and hiding a corpse charges at arrest.

The men had been at a party in Vilas County before taking Valliere on a ride to rural roads in the town of Mercer following a disagreement. 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 the prescription drug Gabepentin, the latter said to be provided by Oungst, based on the criminal complaint.

Several of the men from Lac du Flambeau were rumored to be part of the Native Soldiers Gang, according to court records.

Some testified Oungst relayed directions to and from this murder scene to aid them all in getting away with the crime. He also retrieved some of the clothes worn during the murder and got rid of them, in addition to handing out his prescription Gabepentin to the others, based on testimony.

Valliere was then taken from the van onto a dirt road in the rural woods, beaten and shot in the face by Allen then shot in the neck and back by Joseph Lussier.

The body of Valliere was found more than a week after he was reported missing, dumped behind a dirt road embankment in rural Mercer off Moose Lake Road.

In the days following, Oungst was accused of helping Allen flee the area by giving him a ride north of the county after the murder, court reports note.

Oungst is said to have helped lead investigators to the place where Valliere's body was hidden.

Price County Judge Kevin Kline was called in as a substitute judge in Oungst's case, at the request of the attorneys.

Defending Oungst has been attorneys Thomas Wilmouth and Amy O'Melia, Hazelhurst, and Mike Steinle of Milwaukee, who joined the defense later in the process.

Prosecution in all cases for Valliere's homicide have been state assistant attorneys general Richard Dufour and Chad Verbeten out of Madison.

Pre-sentence Oungst letter to judge

Following Oungst's plea hearing, he was immediately remanded to the Iron County Jail. He had been home on a $25,000 cash bond with his parents on house arrest and GPS monitoring.

Oungst filed a letter with the court last week.

"I want to communicate the depth of my level of commitment to living an all-around better life and assert that, no mater (sic) what you deem to be a just sentence for my wrongs, I will never end up in similar circumstances after that sentence is served," Oungst noted.

Kline was provided with a "large portion" of information addressing Oungst's past - of which various conclusions have been made about his experiences and the choices and behaviors he had, the letter notes.

"I neither make any excuses for my reprehensible behavior, nor do I hide behind any rationalizations made related to how my past may have impacted the terrible decisions I made leading up to December 22, 2017 and those I made after," Oungst wrote. "At present, as a sober man, it is not difficult for me to see the error in my ways. When reflecting on all factors that led me to this juncture, I am filled with an immense amount of regret and a sincere determination to change."

Oungst is a graduate of Lakeland Union High School, obtained a state of Wisconsin university degree, and worked "steadily and volunteered," he relayed.

"My choice to abuse alcohol and drugs sent me on a wayward path. I deeply regret that it took a situation so tragic, the senseless murder of a young man, for me to accurately assess my flaws," Oungst wrote. "I am thankful for my sobriety, but I am haunted by the ramifications of my selfish ways. A family is without a son, forced to re-live how he met his end through court hearings, trials, and media coverage, over and over again."

In the letter, Oungst indicates he "didn't know" Valliere well but has since "learned what a gift he was and would have been to loved ones and his community had he not been killed."

Oungst relays he is committed to change and turning to a life of "... honesty hard work, sobriety and faith" as well as be more kind and charitable.

He was a licensed fishing guide since he was 18 and enjoyed outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting. He worked for an area sports store as well, but admits he put bad habits ahead of that commitment and showed up late and on occasions, drunk, according to the letter.

"After witnessing Wayne Valliere, Jr.'s murder, I was confronted with the thought of his family wondering where he was around the holidays," Oungst states. "I tried to drink these thoughts and the memories of what happened away, but I couldn't. In my stupor, I still couldn't get that thought out of my head. That's what drove me to come forward and show Chief Brandenburg where Wayne Valliere, Jr.'s body was. I couldn't bare (sic) the thought of his family holding out false hope, not knowing.

"... I was offered the chance to accept a plea agreement that aligned with my culpability, and I did so in hopes that I could recover some sort of dignity that comes with taking accountability for one's wrongs, and give the victims and my family closure ... I am ashamed of my actions and consider every single day what could have been ... I trace all of these horrible decision to carelessness, selfishness and cowardice. I carelessly traded my prescription drugs for marijuana. I selfishly kept quiet when I heard Joseph Lussier and Richard Allen talking bad about Wayne Valliere, Jr. at the party. I selfishly did nothing in the van when I became aware that something was awry before the killing. I wonder if I could have stopped the beating had I tried to break it up. I carelessly gave directions to a van full of crazed lunatics after a murder was committed. I selfishly moved clothing for Richard Allen upon his request and gave him a ride in order to placate him, rather than doing the right thing and turning him in. For all these wrongs, I have nothing but regret and guilt. I don't expect mercy, but I pray to God for it. My carelessness, selfishness, indifference and cowardice contributed to the death of a young man, and showed lack of respect for the law."

Oungst also plans to make a statement during the sentencing hearing.

Request for reduction in sentence for assisting authorities

Oungst's attorneys have filed a memorandum requesting a reduced sentence for their client.

"The basic currency of whistleblowing is a respect for the facts and rules of the law," the memorandum notes.

Oungst and his team are requesting the court impose an aggregate initial confinement term of no more than 10 years for the 12 counts to which he has pled guilty.

"Oungst submits ... such a sentence reflects the nature and extent of his substance assistance to authorities in the investigation ...."

Prosecutors are expected to recommend an aggregate sentence of 30 to 40 years' initial confinement followed by 12 years extended supervision and another 10 years probation.

The defense notes Oungst provided "substantial assistance" in not only the Valliere homicide investigation against Allen, the Lussier brothers, and Wolfe, but also in the investigation and prosecution of Matthew Gollubske and Robert Gollubske - who were charged last year in connection with several explosions at an Iron County asphalt plant.

Oungst voluntarily met with law enforcement before he was taken into custody on Dec. 30 and 31 and also helped Lac du Flambeau Tribal Police on Jan. 1 to find Valliere's body, which ultimately was recovered, at which time "Oungst became physically ill." Law enforcement found evidence besides the body, including blood, bullets, casings and a rear gun sight. The state also was able to prove a gun hidden by Wolfe was used to kill Valliere, the defense attorneys note in the memorandum.

"Without Oungst's assistance, the body of Wayne Valliere, Jr., may never have been recovered," the memorandum continues. The other involved parties slowly gave more details after that assistance, the defense argues.

"Oungst's cooperation created a virtual domino effect ... no single witness has provided more important information or helped law enforcement gather more critical evidence against Joseph Lussier, Richard Allen, Curtis Wolfe and James Lussier than Evan Oungst," the memorandum states.

In the Gollubske matter, Oungst was a pod-mate with Matthew Gollubske. Oungst relayed "detailed statements" made by Gollubske to officers regarding his, his father and uncle's involvement in the intentional explosives put at Construction in July 2015. Oungst reported Gollubske treated further explosive use and discussed working with others for "retaliation against authority, jail escape, flight to another country if released on bond and ... fabrication of an alibi," court records state.

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.

Both Allen and Lussier were convicted and imprisoned for life in following a jury trial in August 2018.

Both are seeking post-conviction relief.

James Lussier entered guilty please to lesser charges of felony murder/battery as parties to a crime/conspiracy and two counts of harboring aiding a felony as party to a crime and is serving a 30 year prison sentence, 15 in incarceration, 15 on monitoring.

Wolfe will be sentenced later this month after pleading no contest to amended charges of second degree reckless homicide by omission, hiding a corpse, harboring and aiding a felon - all as a repeat offender and as party to a crime - as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm.

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