Joseph Paul DeWise

Joseph Paul DeWise enters Gallatin County District Court on Tuesday for his trial.

Joseph DeWise, 17, said it wasn’t unusual for his father to leave the house and work late at night.

So when Joseph Paul DeWise asked his son, called Joe, to get ready to leave on the evening of Jan. 6, 2018, he thought they were heading to a job.

Instead, Joe said, his dad drove to Belgrade, to Idaho Street, and parked a couple houses from where his stepmother lived.

Joe was confused. But he had a sinking feeling.

“I didn’t know what was going on until he pulled out the pistol, and then I got very scared,” Joe said.

Joe testified in Gallatin County District Court Thursday in his father’s trial for the murder of Lauren DeWise and shooting of her roommate, Ashley Van Hemert. Joe, who was 15 at the time of the incident, now lives in Florida with his mom. He returned to Bozeman to give his account of what happened the night of the shootings.

Later, defense attorney Annie DeWolf countered that the detective who interviewed Joe put him in a position to say DeWise was the shooter in order to save himself, that Joe knew he would be implicated. DeWolf asked if those statements were correct and Joe said no.

During testimony, Joe said he and DeWise sat in the car for 30 minutes after parking on Idaho Street.

He said he tried to persuade his dad to go home. He said DeWise told him everything would be fine if Joe did what he said. Joe testified they put on knit face masks and rubber gloves.

Joe said they began walking toward the house around midnight, DeWise carrying the pistol. He said DeWise forced open a back gate and then kicked down a door into the home.

The prosecutor asked how many kicks it took to open the door. Just one, Joe replied.

Joe said DeWise pushed him into the residence, flipped on the lights and searched the downstairs rooms. DeWise went up the stairs and Joe followed. Once on the second floor, Joe said, DeWise opened the first door to the right and was holding the pistol.

There was an exchange between Van Hemert and DeWise, Joe said. He said Van Hemert woke up and said, “Who the ‘f’ are you?” and that DeWise responded with the same question before shooting her multiple times.

Van Hemert survived her injuries. She testified earlier this week. She said she has no memory of what happened that night after she went to sleep.

Next, Joe said DeWise opened another bedroom door and stepped just inside the threshold. He said he heard Lauren gasp. The prosecutor asked how Joe knew it was Lauren who made the noise.

“I lived with Lauren. I know what she sounds like,” Joe said.

Joe said DeWise shot Lauren multiple times. He said they ran back to the car and that DeWise stopped at a Town Pump gas station on the way back to Bozeman.

Prosecutors showed a photo of DeWise entering the Town Pump from the store’s security footage.

“I sat in the car. I was having trouble breathing. I don’t think I could move. I felt like I was going to throw up,” Joe said.

Once home in Bozeman where his two sisters were asleep, Joe said DeWise told him to get rid of the gun. He said he took it and threw it in the Bozeman Pond, less than a mile from their home on Silver Maple Drive. Joe said he made multiple trips to the pond that night to discard of live .22 caliber rounds DeWise found in his bedroom.

Police recovered a .22 caliber pistol at the pond after it was found by people ice fishing.

Joe’s sister Natalie, 19, testified on Wednesday that the next morning, on Jan. 7, DeWise told her he had killed Lauren. Both Natalie and Joe said they went to church that morning before DeWise was arrested.

Joe was interviewed multiple times by police following the incident. He said DeWise coached him to say the family stayed home that night and watched movies. Joe gave that story the first couple of times he was interviewed and said he did what his father instructed in fear of retaliation against him or his sisters.

On Jan. 13, Joe was interviewed with his mother present, and that’s when he told most of the truth, he said. He was interviewed again one month later.

The defense questioned him about his interviews. DeWolf said Joe said he would have called the police if his dad was “acting weird.”

Joe said he did say that, but that he was afraid of his dad.

“The walls in the trailer were paper thin, so that would end badly,” Joe said.

Joe was released from testifying after about three hours, but is on standby if further questions arise.

A general surgeon and professor at the University of Colorado, Robert McIntyre, was also questioned by a video call Thursday morning. He treated Van Hemert after she was flown to his hospital in Colorado on Jan. 7.

McIntyre described in detail three surgeries Van Hemert underwent as a result of her gunshot wounds, including brain surgery and removing a bullet from her neck.

McIntyre said some of her injuries “certainly were life-threatening.”

DeWise’s trial will continue for a fifth day on Friday.

Shaylee Ragar can be reached at sragar@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2607.

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