KALISPELL — A 38-year-old woman has been cleared of deliberate homicide and had her case dismissed.
MTN News spoke with Rachel Bellesen’s defense attorney about what this means for Bellesen, and those supporting her.
Sanders County prosecutors charged Bellesen with deliberate homicide after she shot and killed her ex-husband last October.
She was arrested in Hot Springs after calling the police to tell them what happened.
She told officers her former husband tried to rape her that afternoon while they were meeting to discuss their son.
Court papers outline the events leading up to that day that led to the shooting. Bellesen says he tried to rape her more than once.
Although she claims this was self-defense, Sanders County prosecutors charged her with murder.
The case continued until this week when the courts dismissed the case 'with prejudice' meaning it she'll never face charges.
Defense attorney Lance Jasper says that Bellesen's is a landmark case due to the fact many women in the United States are convicted of the same crime, with the same circumstances.
“There's a lot of Rachel Bellesen’s around this country that are in similar situations or in custody...with similar facts on it. And so, you know, it was a good day for justice,” Jasper said.
Bellesen's case has drawn national attention and a documentary about the case is already underway.
Bellesen and her supporters gathered at Depot Park on Wednesday night to celebrate the dismissal of her case.
Teary eyed, joy and grief, three words that describe the gathering at Depot Park in support of Bellesen.
“There's gratitude, there's grief, there's relief. There's sadness, there's still frustration there still all the remaining feelings that we get from the work that we do every day, supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence. And so we're just here to be together and honor Rachel," said Hilary Shaw the Executive Director of the Abbie Shelter, and Bellesen’s boss, who has seen not only the horrors of domestic abuse from their clients eyes, but from Bellesen herself.
Now the healing continues as Bellesen recognizes her privilege of having the case dismissed.
“Feeling extreme sadness that so many women that do not look like me would have never gained or would have never experienced the outcome that I issued," said Bellesen.
Speaking to a crowd of about 15 supporters, Bellesen said the outcome may not have been the same if a person of color were charged for a similar situation...
“I would probably still be sitting in the jail with an astronomically high bond, hoping for a case, update from a public defender who was overworked and underpaid, barely knowing my name," said Bellesen
But Bellesen hopes to use her own journey through grief and relief to bring light to domestic abuse.
“That is using the privilege of my voice to bring domestic violence out from behind closed doors, solutions cannot be found or people are not aware of the problems. Let's fight to change that," said Bellesen.
Shaw says this case can create change, but it will take years for it to cause change.
“The impacts of this case won't be seen for many decades, and that's okay with us. We do the work because we know we are planting seeds for trees, under which whose shade we will probably never sit," said Shaw.