Submitted on Briefs: January 25, 2017
FROM: District Court of the Twentieth Judicial District, In
and For the County of Lake, Cause No. DC 13-143 Honorable
John W. Larson, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Chad Wright, Chief Appellate Defender, Helena,
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Katie F.
Schulz, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Steven N.
Eschenbacher, Lake County Attorney, Polson, Montana
M. SANDEFUR, JUSTICE
Following a jury trial in the Twentieth Judicial District
Court, Lake County, Melvin Lee Madplume Jr. was convicted of
deliberate homicide under the felony murder rule, §
45-5-102(1)(b), MCA, and sentenced to life without parole.
Madplume timely appealed, arguing the District Court erred in
admitting evidence of prior acts barred by M. R. Evid.
404(b). Madplume also claims the District Court sentenced him
to pay costs of defense, prosecution, and jury selection
without sufficient findings regarding his ability to pay. We
affirm the District Court's evidentiary ruling, reverse
the sentence to pay costs, and remand for an inquiry into
Madplume's ability to pay.
Madplume raises two issues on direct appeal:
1. Did the District Court abuse its discretion in
admitting evidence of Madplume's prior acts under M. R.
Evid. 404(b) and 403?
2. Did the District Court err in sentencing Madplume to
pay costs of assigned defense, prosecution, and jury
selection without a sufficient inquiry into his ability to
Madplume's conviction stems from the May 25, 2013 death
of his 28-year-old cousin, Laurence Kenmille, at Wild Horse
Hot Springs in Hot Springs, Montana. In its initial charging
documents, the State recited the details of a prior,
uncharged incident involving Madplume and another male cousin
at Wild Horse. Madplume filed a motion in limine to exclude
from trial all evidence of the prior event. The District
Court denied Madplume's motion and admitted the evidence
as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, and
plan. Because the District Court based its decision on a
comparison of the circumstances of Kenmille's death and
the prior incident, a brief explanation of each event is
A week before Kenmille's death, Madplume and Bassu Eneas
(Bassu) went to J.B.'s house to ask if he would drive
them to Wild Horse. Like Kenmille, J.B. and Bassu were both
cousins of Madplume. At the time, Madplume and J.B. were 29
and 40 years old, respectively, but Bassu was still a
teenager. Madplume explained that he and Bassu had been
drinking and needed a sober driver to take them to the hot
springs. J.B. agreed to go with them in Madplume's car,
but Madplume ended up driving. At Madplume's insistence,
J.B. consumed two shots of whisky and began drinking a beer
on the way to Wild Horse. When they arrived at Wild Horse,
J.B. noticed that no one was working at the front desk, which
made him uncomfortable about going inside. Madplume insisted
he had reserved a room and led J.B. and Bassu to Room Four.
Room Four featured a private "plunge room" and
sauna. The plunge room housed a sunken, cement hot tub filled
with water piped in from the hot springs. The tub was
situated against two walls in a corner of the room. A high
metal railing wrapped around the tub's two open sides and
down seven concrete steps into the tub. Because of the
railing, the steps were the only way in and out of the tub. A
short ledge along one wall provided the only seating
available in the tub. In the corner of the plunge room
opposite the tub, a metal door with a glass window led to a
At first, J.B. was reluctant to get into the tub with
Madplume and Bassu. A recent surgery on his foot left him
self-conscious and leery of getting an infection from the
water. Madplume, however, claimed to have a background in
healthcare from working as a CNA, and assured J.B. that the
hot water would be good for his foot. When J.B. finally
joined Madplume and Bassu in the tub, Madplume began
pestering J.B., asking to see his foot up close. When J.B.
relented, Madplume touched J.B.'s inner thigh, which J.B.
interpreted as a sexual advance and resisted, pushing
Madplume away. Madplume then told Bassu to leave the room.
Once Bassu was gone, Madplume accused J.B. of leading him on.
J.B. got angry and tried to leave, but the combination of
heat, alcohol, and the foot surgery made him unsteady.
Madplume blocked the steps out of the hot tub and pushed J.B.
back into the water multiple times. Eventually, J.B. pushed
past Madplume, put on his shoes, and left the room.
J.B. found Bassu outside and told him what had happened,
warning him against being alone with Madplume. Without cell
service or other options to leave Wild Horse, J.B. and Bassu
had to rely on Madplume to get home. When Madplume offered to
drive them home, they accepted. The ride home began with
Madplume speeding toward the highway, drifting from side to
side across the dirt road leading away from Wild Horse. Upon
reaching the highway, instead of turning left toward
J.B.'s home, Madplume turned right toward Hot Springs.
After Madplume sped past a cutoff road to Ronan, J.B. started
getting mad again and demanded that Madplume pull over. When
Madplume stopped, J.B. got out and began walking toward a
local convenience store. About 20 minutes later, Madplume
returned and encouraged J.B. to get back in the car. J.B.
climbed in, and after more erratic driving, Madplume
eventually took J.B. back to his home.
Madplume had purchased two bottles of rum before heading to
Kenmille's mother's house for a late breakfast on May
25, 2013. At the time, Kenmille was staying at his
mother's house. After visiting with friends and family in
the neighborhood, Madplume, Kenmille and Youstah Eneas,
Bassu's 16-year-old brother, went to Wild Horse.
According to Wild Horse employees, the three men arrived
around 3 p.m. and had already begun partying and drinking the
rum Madplume had brought. The employees noted that Kenmille
was particularly boisterous at first, but as the day went on
he became more inebriated and subdued. Later in ...