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Wood murder trial set to begin Tuesday

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Clark Fork Valley Press/Mineral Independent | January 20, 2021 12:00 AM

Nearly two years after her arrest, testimony in the trial of a Polson woman accused of murdering her ex-boyfriend in Thompson Falls in 2018 was scheduled to begin Tuesday morning.

Danielle Jeanette Wood, 56, is charged with deliberate homicide and is being held on a $1 million bond in the Lake County Jail where she’s been for 666 days since her arrest and booking March 20, 2019.

Wood’s trial has been delayed more than once as attorneys defending her have left the case for various reasons.

Attorneys Eldena Bear Don’t Walk and Ashley Morigeau initially represented Wood before Kirk Krutilla and William Managhan of the state public defender’s office took over.

Wood’s trial was set to begin in April 2020, but Krutilla gave notice Feb. 19, 2020, that “it will be very unlikely or almost impossible he would be working for the Office of the Public Defender” in July.

Managhan, a Kalispell-based attorney, continues to represent Wood while state attorney Daniel M. Guzynski from the Montana Department of Justice is handling the prosecution. Sanders County District Court Judge Deborah Kim Christopher will preside.

Jury selection began Thursday, Jan. 14 and was set to conclude Friday, Jan. 15 at the Sanders County Courthouse in Thompson Falls.

Wood is accused of shooting and killing Matthew George LaFriniere, 51, May 2, 2018. She was arrested in March 2019.

Wood was LaFriniere’s ex-girlfriend and had a child with him, according to charging documents filed in Sanders County District Court.

LaFriniere was found dead by one of his co-workers on May 3, 2018, underneath a piece of plywood, lying face down on the ground. He had been shot three or four times in the chest, back and hand.

Based on Wood’s purchase of a handgun less than two months prior to the death of LaFriniere, connections between Wood’s cellphone and a disposable phone linked to Wood and statements from family members and neighbors, “probable cause exists that the defendant (Wood) has committed the alleged offense of deliberate homicide,” court documents stated.

A Thompson Falls police officer had gone to LaFriniere’s residence earlier that day to conduct a welfare check after LaFriniere’s father said his son hadn’t shown up for work at Empire Builders Ace Hardware in Thompson Falls that morning and wasn’t answering his phone. The officer saw LaFriniere’s truck in his driveway but didn’t find him at home.

An officer interviewed Wood that same day and learned the couple had a child together. Wood claimed she had gotten a text message from LaFriniere saying he was predisposed in Trout Creek and that she should take their daughter. Wood characterized the texts as “strange” because they didn’t originate from his phone number, but rather a number later tracked to a disposable Tracfone, according to court documents.

The couple were never married, and were involved in a custody dispute that resulted in LaFriniere getting primary custody of their child.

Investigators later discovered Wood had purchased a new .38 special caliber revolver and ammunition in mid-March 2018. The bullet retrieved from LaFriniere’s hand was “consistent” with Wood’s firearm, court documents noted.

Wood had attended a Pampered Chef party the evening of May 2, but party attendees told investigators Wood departed the party at about 7 p.m. and returned around 8 p.m.

Wood previously was employed at the Lake County Leader as an advertising sales representative.