Parole Denied to Brett Byers

Brett Byers listens to the recommendation from the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole during a hearing in 2015 at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge. 

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After serving nearly 30 years in prison, the man who shot and killed two freshmen on campus at Montana State University in 1990 will have a third opportunity at freedom next month.

Brett Donald Byers, 49, will ask the state’s Board of Pardons and Parole for his freedom at the Montana State Prison on Sept. 22.

Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert confirmed the date of the hearing on Friday. He said he would likely testify at the hearing. Lambert declined to comment further.

Byers is serving a 165-year sentence at the state prison for the slaying of Brian Boeder and James Clevenger, then freshmen at the university.

In May 1990, Byers, then 19, was drinking wine and damaged his truck after hitting a parked car while spinning a “doughnut.” Byers then “snapped” and returned to his dorm room in Langford Hall where he loaded his sawed-off shotgun and went to the floor below him.

At 2 a.m., Byers went into Boeder’s and Clevenger’s room, where they were sleeping. Byers fired four, close-range shotgun blasts that hit them. The two 19-year-olds died later that morning.

Boeder was a physical education major from Plymouth, Minnesota. Clevenger was a general studies student from Billings.

Byers was arrested later that day in East Helena after a high-speed chase ended with him crashing his truck through power lines and a gas pump.

Byers has been denied parole twice before, in 2015 and in 2007.

During the 2015 hearing, attorney Wendy Holton said Byers was no longer the immature, troubled young man that he was at the time of the killings. She said Byers had completed anger management, chemical dependency treatment and other programs.

Holton described Byers as a “mature, hard-working devout man who will be a positive part of his community.”

Mary Kay Puckett, a parole board member at the 2015 hearing, told Byers that he had performed well in prison and that he was “on the right track.” However, she reiterated that Byers had murdered two innocent men and said she didn’t feel his release was appropriate then.

The board also heard from Clevenger’s father, mother and sister, who each asked that Byers remain in prison for the killings.

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Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2630.

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