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Kootenai campground killer sentenced to state prison

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Hagadone News Network | October 5, 2023 2:07 PM

A Kalispell attorney convicted of deliberate homicide and attempted homicide in relation to the shotgun shootings of two people, one fatal, last year at a campground near Libby Dam was sentenced Thursday.

Garry Douglas Seaman, 64, appeared in Lincoln County District Court and received two 60-year concurrent sentences for each count from Missoula County District Judge Jason Marks. Seaman must serve 18 years before he is eligible for parole.

Seaman pleaded guilty to shooting and killing James Preston Freeman and his former, long-time domestic partner at the Alexander Creek Campground on May 21, 2022.

His sentence followed a plea deal agreed to by Deputy County Attorney Jeffrey Zwang and Seaman's attorney, Nick K. Brooke.

According to the plea deal, both sides agreed to Seaman receiving a 60-year sentence on each count to the Montana State Prison. It stipulated that Seaman must serve 18 years, concurrently, on each count before being eligible for parole. Seaman received credit for the time he has served in the Lincoln County Detention Center. Seaman must also pay restitution of nearly $5,800.

Seaman, who had been held on $25 million bail since an August 2022 hearing, will remain in the county jail without bail until he is moved to the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge.

The one-time couple was “going through a contentious separation, and recent instances of violence and requests for civil standby assistance have been documented by the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office,” wrote Zwang in an affidavit charging the shootings.

The surviving victim said she and Freeman had been old friends from 30 years. “We had texted and talked,” she said.

After their relationship evolved, they decided to go camping in Lincoln County.

“We didn’t tell anyone where we were going, but I told my son we were going camping. It was the first weekend Garry would take him (their son),” she said.

The woman said the reservation they had made for a campsite was cancelled because of a “glitch in the system.”

“We stopped at a restaurant in Libby and a waitress told us another place we could go,” she said.

The woman said she and Freeman spent time shooting guns at a local firing range before returning to the campsite.

“James and I were sitting at a picnic table when Garry drove in. I believe my guns were in the glove box of my vehicle.

“He said, ‘It’s you, it’s you,’ and then started shooting. He shot James first, then me,” she said.

She also said Seaman shot Freeman five times and her five to seven times.

She said a fisherman drove up and, “I told him to go toward Libby and he’d get service to call for help.” She said it was a little more than an hour before first responders showed up.

She was flown to Logan Health in Kalispell for medical care.

“I was in the ICU for about two weeks, had three stomach surgeries for all the shrapnel and debris,” the woman said.

She described medical bills in excess of $360,000 at the time and would increase with further treatment.

The woman alleged in a petition for a protection order filed in Flathead County that Seaman had followed her to homes she was interested in renting and was using electronic devices to track her location because she received notifications on her phone, according to the affidavit filed by Lincoln County Deputy Attorney Jeffrey Zwang. The woman said the petition was denied when the judge determined the information she provided did not support the order of protection.

According to court documents, the woman identified Seaman as the shooter while deputies provided emergency treatment to her. She gave them a description of his vehicle and told them it had “Kalispell plates.”

He was arrested near his home in the Flathead Valley following a manhunt involving multiple law enforcement agencies.

Seaman’s former partner’s testimony in the 2022 bail hearing was emotional and she believed if he ever got out of prison, “I have no doubt he’d finish the job.”

The female victim also testified to her extensive injuries from the shooting.

“I was shot in the left hand, twice in the stomach, in the buttocks, my right breast. I have to wear a colostomy bag because of what the shrapnel did to my intestines,” she said at the August 2022 bail hearing. “All my doctors said I shouldn’t have lived.”

She explained that she went to work in Seaman’s law firm on May 19, 1994. She said they began a romantic relationship in 2007 and one child was born of the union.

“We broke up in 2020 and then I went back to him briefly before he told me to, “Get the [profanity] out of my house and you’re fired.”

The woman also testified that Seaman said, “If you have to kill someone, use a shotgun and make sure you kill them, because dead men tell no tales.”

Dawn Freeman, the wife of James Freeman, said at the 2022 bail hearing that she wasn’t aware of the relationship between Jim and the female victim.

“We were married for 16 years and we have five children. Four of the kids are still at home,” Dawn Freeman said. “On the morning of May 21, two police officers came to my home and told me [Jim Freeman] was deceased and there was a manhunt underway.

“I spent hours in the garage, agonizing over having to tell the kids because of the news and social media. Things come out so quickly,” Freeman said.

She said her children were stunned, shocked and upset. She said they didn’t sleep for days and had entered counseling.

“The kids loved their dad. He was always there to take care of their needs. He worked very hard and was the sole provider of the family,” Freeman said.