A CALL FOR ACTION

A CALL FOR ACTION FROM THE ABBIE SHELTER IN KALISPELL, MT:

WE NEED YOUR HELP TO RIGHT A TERRIBLE WRONG


To our community and beyond:

We are deeply grieved that our community member, friend, and colleague, Rachel Bellesen, is being unjustly prosecuted for deliberate homicide in Sanders County for killing her abusive ex-husband in a justifiable exercise of her right to self-defense from his attempted rape on October 8th, 2020. This is a terrible injustice occurring in the State of Montana, sending a hopeless message to all victims of domestic violence that their voices will be unheard or their safety unprioritized in our legal system.

On October 9th, 2020, in the Justice Court of Sanders County, County Attorney Naomi Leisz formally charged Rachel Ann Bellesen, a resident of Flathead County, with deliberate homicide of Jacob Angelo Glace, who resided in Sanders County. Three weeks later, Rachel was released on bail with a bond of $20,000, an uncharacteristically low bond for such a serious charge. Since then, Rachel’s pro-bono legal team has been working tirelessly to see this unjust case dismissed.


On April 6th, 2021, Rachel and her attorney made an offer to prosecutors to turn over their entire defense to the state for their evaluation, in exchange for a dismissal without prejudice with an automatic conversion to “with prejudice” barring prosecution after one year. Instead of responding to this offer, on April 9th, 2021 the prosecution filed a motion to dismiss the case without prejudice, based on weak arguments of lack of time instead of acknowledging the gaping holes and investigative errors in the state’s case.


A motion to dismiss “without prejudice” is not justice for Rachel.


In order to achieve true justice for Rachel, this case must be dismissed WITH prejudice to ensure that Rachel will be protected from unjust prosecution in the future, and that this case is eliminated from her permanent record. While the dismissal is a step forward, it means that this case will follow Rachel for the rest of her life. She will live in fear that the case may be refiled. These charges will remain a permanent stain on Rachel’s record. While the state has come close to admitting a lack of evidence to continue with deliberate homicide charges, they have not vindicated Rachel. These actions diminish the rights of victims to safety and justice in our state’s legal system.


A motion to dismiss without prejudice allows everyone to walk away unharmed from this unjust prosecution – except for Rachel. From the law enforcement officers who mishandled the gathering of evidence, to the County Attorney who unnecessarily rushed the charging of this case in the first place, Rachel remains the only person who will be followed by this outcome. Unless the case is dismissed with prejudice, her name will forever be tied to her charges.


On April 14th, 2021, at long last, this case landed on the desk of Austin Knudsen, the Attorney General for the state of Montana. Despite the countless errors in the prosecution’s investigation and the obvious lack of evidence noted in the April 9th motion to dismiss without prejudice, the Attorney General made no changes to the motion. Rachel will either face the lifelong threat of refiled charges, or she will face a trial by jury in July. With this act, our Attorney General has chosen not to act on behalf of justice and on behalf of domestic violence survivors everywhere.


We need your help: Please contact the Attorney General by May 10th, 2021 and tell him to dismiss the charges against Rachel Bellesen with prejudice.


Based on the evidence available today, we seek your support, your voice, and your written call upon Attorney General Austin Knudsen to end this overzealous and inappropriate prosecution of an innocent person, and dismiss the charges against Rachel Ann Bellesen WITH PREJUDICE. To do otherwise would be a gross injustice against a survivor of domestic violence. Rachel should be free to live her life without fear of the legal system, instead of suffering further injustice at the hands of the very system she works alongside to protect and empower other victims of domestic violence. The tragic irony could not be more profound.


Rachel Bellesen works as is a Domestic Violence Advocate and is a service to our community.


Rachel is a compassionate and quiet person. An expert baker, handy-woman of all trades, and mother of four adult children, Rachel works as a domestic violence advocate with the Abbie Shelter in Kalispell. As the Shelter Coordinator she has served hundreds of survivors of domestic violence during her tenure, helping them seek safety and recovery from abusive partners just like her ex-husband.


The events of October 8th, 2020 were far from the first acts of violence that Jacob Glace committed against Rachel.


The charging documents themselves support that, on the day of the tragedy, Mr. Glace physically and sexually assaulted Rachel. Her shirt, bra, and pants were ripped, and Mr. Glace’s scratch marks were on Rachel’s chest. Had the assault continued, Rachel would have suffered (at a minimum) a completed rape by Mr. Glace. It was far from the first time Rachel was assaulted by Mr. Glace. It is likely that her past trauma of being raped by Mr. Glace, paired with her current work as a domestic violence advocate, gave her the strength to escape his grasp and defend herself against his violent assault.


The prosecution of this case has been riddled with error from the beginning. The Sanders County Attorney filed a deliberate homicide charge against Rachel before a standard coroner’s inquiry was conducted. It is likely that the sexual assaults which Rachel suffered immediately prior to her having to defend herself would have cleared her from being charged. Sadly, that coroner’s inquiry did not take place. In addition, despite an offer from the Montana Department of Justice’s Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) to aid in the investigation, the Sanders County Attorney declined and relied upon an inexperienced trainee to conduct the investigation.

Mr. Glace had a long and fraught history of committing domestic and sexual violence crimes against multiple victims, including Rachel. Mr. Glace’s first documented assault of Rachel was in Washington State in 2004, where Mr. Glace pleaded guilty (Alford) to Fourth Degree Assault - Domestic Violence and Third Degree Malicious Mischief - Domestic Violence. He dragged her from a friend’s house by her hair and beat her in a parking lot as punishment for leaving him.


In 2010, with another victim, Glace was found guilty of Partner or Family Member Assault (PFMA) in Flathead County stemming from an incident in August 2009, where he assaulted his new wife on their wedding day at Rachel’s home. It was Rachel and Jake’s son, age 10 at the time, who called 911 on his father that day.


In April 2020, with yet another victim, Mr. Glace was charged with PFMA after he allegedly punched his partner of 10 years in Plains, MT in front of their children. In this, the victim was quoted in the Kalispell Daily Interlake newspaper saying,


“I met Jacob (Glace) in February 2010 and we started dating in April. We were together until December 2019 and lived together until he hit me in front of my kids in March 2020. He was very abusive across the board, sexually, physically, emotionally, and financially," the victim said. "An investigation against him was opened in June (2020) for sexually assaulting one of the kids."


A few months later, while Mr. Glace was out on bail for these charges, he acquired yet another felony PFMA charge for allegedly assaulting yet another victim in Mineral County.


All the while, Rachel maintained a relationship with Mr. Glace in order to co-parent their 2 children, now young adults. In fact, the reason she had gone to meet her ex-husband in Sanders County on October 8th, 2020 was to appeal to him not to follow through on a threat to assault their son.


Clearly the October 8th, 2020 assault on Rachel was only the latest in a string of recent crimes in 2020 by Mr. Glace. There is a very strong argument that Mr. Glace should have been in jail, facing these two felony assault charges, as would have been the case in most other jurisdictions in the State of Montana. Needless to say, this may have protected Rachel from his violent attack.

In summary, Montana taxpayer dollars are paying for the unjust prosecution of a domestic violence advocate for protecting herself against a violent attack from her abusive ex-husband - in Sanders County, Montana, a county and state that champion gun rights for self-defense.


This tragic story is filled with contradiction. This expense on the back of Montana taxpayers is a particular sting to domestic violence organizations, as we fight tirelessly every year to maintain our financial support from the state. As domestic violence advocates, we watch dangerous domestic violence abusers walk free every day. Violent abusers are often unprosecuted, out on low bail despite high indications of lethality, continuing to abuse their partners with virtually no accountability from the legal system. This case is a sting to all of us as we stand on the front lines of domestic violence in our state while we watch our colleague suffer.


Please contact Attorney General Austin Knudsen today, and tell him to dismiss the charges against Rachel Ann Bellesen with prejudice. Use this online form or call 406-444-2026 TODAY.


Then contact Senator Tester, Senator Daines, Congressperson Rosendale, and your local Montana legislators and ask them to send the same message to the Attorney General’s office.


A hearing for a motion to dismiss the case against Rachel is set in Thompson Falls for May 25th, 2021. On behalf of all victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence in the state of Montana, we appreciate your timely response to this matter by May 10th, 2021.


IN THE PLACES WHERE RACHEL HAS BEEN MADE VOICELESS, LET’S MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD.


With gratitude and hope,

Hilary Shaw, Executive Director

The Abbie Shelter, Kalispell, MT

director@abbieshelter.org, 406-261-9082

www.abbieshelter.org


PS. Rachel’s story has been selected and is currently being filmed by an A&E television series entitled, “The Accused: Guilty or Innocent.” In the next year when her episode is aired, the entire nation will have the opportunity to witness how the state of Montana responded to this injustice against a domestic violence survivor and advocate.