reporting by RACHEL CROWSPREADINGWINGS, KFBB
GREAT FALLS - William Arocha Junior was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the 2017 stabbing death of Shane LaPlant.
Jurors found him not guilty on a charge of second-degree murder.
Back in July 2017, Shane LaPlant was stabbed to death after a fight broke out over alcohol at a wedding in East Glacier. Arocha was arrested by tribal officers.
A federal brief states the fight started out as a fistfight on the lawn between Arocha's father, brother, and Shane. It quickly moved onto the street and that's when Arocha stabbed Shane in the torso. Shane was able to run off but Arocha eventually tackled him and stabbed him a further 25 times.
"He had defensive wounds on his hands, and I was there when he passed away, and I prayed with my husband," said Jo Ann LaPlant, Shane's wife.
As the weeks went on, no one was in custody for Shane's murder and it ended up taking a toll on the family.
Jo Ann went as far to say, "You can go to jail for killing someone and get out the next day and that's what happened to Shane's killer. He's out of jail. There's no justice in that."
Arocha was eventually arrested and in October the first of his 2 court dates began with a trial in Tribal Courts. He was found guilty of assault and negligence.
Arocha is a former detention officer for Rocky Boy's.
Before the jury left to deliberate, Arocha took the stand in his defense, claiming he did not recall a lot and that he was scared of Shane during the fight because Shane was bigger than him.
His statement on the stand does contradict what he told BIA officers just 8 hours after the incident. Court documents state Arocha was in control of his actions and continued to stab Shane.
Shane's father, Kelly LaPlant, said it is a no-win situation for either of the families involved.
The trial lasted just over two days and it took jurors less than 5 hours to come to a verdict. Voluntary manslaughter can carry a sentence of no more than 10 years, fines or both.
He'll remain in custody until his detention hearing on May 17. At that point, the court will decide if he is to remain in custody until his sentencing in September.