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Severson's request for reduced bail denied in court Monday morning

Kyle Severson appeared in Seventh Judicial District Court in front of Judge Olivia Rieger on Monday, Aug. 19, for a bond reduction hearing. Severson is charged with deliberate homicide for the shooting death of Tyler Hayden that occurred on the night of Tuesday, July 2, at the Loaf ‘N Jug in Sidney. Severson’s attorney Michael Haase was present with the defendant.

The defense was seeking a bail reduction to $100,000, down from the previously set $2 million. The defense presented no witnesses to the court, but the state called three: the victim’s mother Julie Riggs, father Cory Hayden and step-father Jason Riggs.

Julie spoke to reasons why the bond should remain at the original amount, reading a statement to the court.

“I studied the 12 guidelines of Montana’s code for determining bail carefully before preparing my statement today,” she said. “I had to. I had to so I could do so without the raw emotion of a mother who’s child had been gunned down in cold blood. Tyler Anthony cannot be here today. He cannot be here to appeal the court for a few more months of life.”

The victim’s mother begged the court not to grant a lower bond, fearing Severson wouldn’t show up for subsequent hearings and worried about the safety of the community if the defendant was allowed to bail out.

“We are all here because my son is dead now, but I refuse to forget he once lived,” Julie said. “Freedom, even with restrictions, is still freedom — a privilege. The defendant gave up the privilege of freedom when he pulled that trigger.”

Hayden’s father and step-father also began to read statements, though the defense objected to both statements as irrelevant to the bond hearing at hand. County attorney Janet Christoffersen questioned both witnesses instead, asking if they had any concerns about Severson’s bail being reduced.

“My biggest concern is he has the financial ability, through him and his girlfriend’s family,” Cory Hayden said. “They have connections to California, to Mexico. Why wouldn’t he run?”

The defense emphasized those connections were strictly speculation.

During the testimony of Jason Riggs, the defense again objected to the relevancy of the statement to the bond hearing. Christoffersen was directed by Judge Rieger to ask the witness questions instead of allowing a statement to be read. The county attorney touched on Severson being a flight risk.

“What information do you have for the court as far as his relationship with family and ties to the community?” Christoffersen asked.

Jason said the defendant’s mother no longer lives in town and he has no other immediate family around to his knowledge.

The state was unable to make a case about Severson’s criminal history, with only a conviction for drinking underage in 2017 and a firearms charged in North Dakota that was dropped. Christoffersen said much of the defendant’s criminal history was when he was a juvenile and the state had not been able to review those records yet. She also argued while the state had no solid proof, it was their understanding there were drugs involved in the crime.

Judge Rieger said she knew it was an emotional case and many factors played into her decision-making process, including community ties, nature of the crime, potential employment for Severson if bonded out and living arrangements for the defendant.

Rieger’s decision was to deny the reduced bail amount and left it at $2 million. She reviewed conditions that would still apply if Severson was able to make bond, including travel restrictions, no contact with the victim’s family and no possession of firearms. The court did agree Severson could live outside Richland County if he bailed out, but could not leave Montana.

Severson’s omnibus hearing is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 16, at 9:15 a.m. A status hearing is set for Nov. 4, a pretrial for Dec. 2 and a trial is currently scheduled for Dec. 10-13, although those dates are subject to change.

If convicted, Severson faces no less than 10 years and no more than 100 years in the Montana State Penitentiary.