A January trial has been scheduled for the Bayfield County man accused of fatally shooting his uncle in rural Carlton County last year.
James Francis Montano, 33, faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of premeditated murder in the April 2018 slaying of 57-year-old Andrew James Gokee at a family property west of Sawyer.
Montano this week was found competent to proceed in court. His case had been on hold since March as he underwent a court-ordered mental-health evaluation.
Psychologist Jacqueline Buffington found that Montano "had the capacity to know the nature or wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the alleged offense" and "has the ability to understand his charges and the court proceedings and assist his attorney in his defense," according to an order issued by 6th Judicial District Judge Leslie Beiers. Montano did not dispute the report's conclusions.
Beiers scheduled a jury trial to begin Jan. 6. It could last up to three weeks.
Montano is charged with premeditated first-degree murder, intentional second-degree murder, attempted premeditated first-degree murder and second-degree assault.
Authorities have not publicly identified a motive in the killing of Gokee, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and a prominent Native American in the region, and the shooting of his son, 38-year-old Hudson Gauthier.
According to court documents:
Carlton County deputies were called to 4020 Kari Road by Michael Montano, the defendant's father and the owner of the property. The deputies reported finding two men who were "clearly upset" along with a third man lying in a pool of blood on the ground.
Gauthier told deputies that he and his father were about to leave when the shooting occurred. As they were getting in the car, Montano appeared with the weapon. Thinking it was a prank, Gauthier told Montano that he scared them, to which the defendant replied: "This (isn't) a f---ing joke."
Montano then fired a shot, which grazed Gauthier's ear. Gauthier lost his balance and fell to the ground as he heard a second shot, which he soon realized had struck his father in the head.
Gauthier ran into the residence to retrieve a pistol and fired a warning shot at Montano. He said the defendant continued to advance until Gauthier fired a second shot, striking him in the upper chest.
Montano was arrested in a field about 300 yards away from the shooting scene after an extensive ground and air search.
Montano remains in the Carlton County Jail on $750,000 bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 23.