On February 18, 2021, the Death Penalty Information Center added 11 previously unidentified cases to their list of people who have been sentenced to death and later found innocent, bringing the number of death row exonerations in the United States up to 185 since 1973. Among them is a man from Billings, Montana, named Gary Radi who was sentenced to death for the 1975 abduction and murder of a Safeway clerk and later found not guilty in a new trial. Radi is the first death row exoneration in Montana recognized by DPIC.
Gary Radi, Bernard James Fitzpatrick, Travis Holliday, Paul Bad Horse Jr., and Edwin Bushman were accused of the April 5, 1975 kidnapping, robbery, and murder of 18-year-old Monte Dyckman in Hardin, Montana. Dyckman was a clerk at Safeway. The State argued that the five men, over beers and a game of pool, devised a plan to rob the Safeway employee who made the nightly deposit in Hardin.
Fitzpatrick and Radi went in one car; Bushman, Bad Horse Jr., and Holliday went in another. The Radi car followed the first employee to depart the Safeway at closing; this person was the store manager who drove directly home. Once they noticed he would not be the employee making the deposit that night, they drove to the bank as planned to meet the other car.
The Bushman car followed the second and last employee to depart the store at closing; this was the Dyckman. The Bushman car followed him to the post office and then to the bank where the Radi car was waiting. The Bushman car left, and this is when the State argued that the Radi car confronted Dyckman and took him to an area off the interstate known as the Toluca Interchange.
Bushman testified for the State in exchange for immunity. He said that his car got back to Radi’s house at around 2:30 a.m. and that Radi arrived on his own around the same time. They all asked Radi what happened. According to Bushman’s testimony, Radi said that he and Fitzpatrick took the $200 Dyckman was depositing and that Fitzpatrick killed Dyckman. Bushman testified that Radi said, “Fritz didn’t have to shoot the kid. Boom, boom, he shot his head off.” Dyckman’s body was found at the Toluca Interchange early in the morning on April 6 with two gunshot wounds to the head.
Fitzpatrick, Radi, Holliday, and Bad Horse Jr. were tried together based on Bushman’s testimony. Holliday and Bad Horse Jr. were convicted of robbery and sentenced to 40 years each. Fitzpatrick and Radi were convicted of kidnapping, robbery, and murder, and they both received the death penalty. In delivering his sentence, District Judge Nat Allen told Radi, “I sentence you to hang by the neck until dead.” The Billings Gazette article covering the sentencing hearing reads, “Radi, wearing a white suit, chains, and a poker face, said nothing.”
Two years later, all four men were granted new trials for three reasons: (1) the jury was improperly selected; (2) Judge Allen did not instruct the jury when it sought clarification about the admissibility of the hearsay evidence about who shot Dyckman; and (3) because all four men were jointly tried, some of them were possibly prejudiced by testimony about the others.
In Radi’s new trial, evidence of an alibi was presented. Radi’s partner, 22-year-old Barbara Hanson, testified that they were together at the Wong Village restaurant in Billings on the night of the murder. Radi was ultimately acquitted.