The new round of assault charges have been brought against convicted murderer and serial domestic violence offender Frank Joe Belmarez. Last July, Belmarez was charged with aggravated assault and partner or family member assault against his girlfriend at the time. Over 6 months removed from the incident, the trial began Monday at Yellowstone County District Court in Montana - Belmarez entered a not guilty plea. Out of fear of Belmarez, the woman had not wanted to testify and had to be subpoenaed. According to her testimony, the assault occurred in her apartment on the 1300 block of Industrial Avenue. The woman could not recall exactly how or why the confrontation began, but recalled being choked by Belmarez, stating "Because I couldn't breathe, I thought I could die.” According to incident reports, police could hear screaming from inside the residence as they arrived on the scene. The door was knocked down when Belmarez refused to open it; officers required a taser to subdue him. The woman was found with blood covering her face, at the hospital she was treated for a broken nose and concussion. She informed officers that she feared for her life during the attack.
Prior to last summer's incident, Belmarez was on supervision for a 2015 family or partner assault conviction. At the time, an intoxicated Belmarez grew angry when his girlfriend at that time did not want to drink with him. Wielding a knife, he allegedly said “I'm going to stick you and then gut your son.” The victim had a 25 year old son who was in the apartment at the time. Unaware of the knife in Belmarez's hand, the son believed the two were having a quarrel and tried to separate them. Belmarez then swung the knife at him. The son stepped out of the way, and later told police that had he not, he would have been stabbed, as his assailant followed through with the swing and punctured the door behind him. Deputy County Attorney Selene Koepke called Belmarez a "grave community safety risk,” and asked the judge for a $200,000 bail, which was approved. He was eventually sentenced to five years probation for the assault.
In 1990, Belmarez was convicted of stabbing his wife Victoria Espinoza to death outside a bar, and stabbing but not killing his sister Jolene Belmarez. He served 21 years of his 35 year sentence. At the time he appealed the court's decision to designate him a “dangerous offender.” The designation played an important role in parole eligibility. The Montana Supreme Court remanded the decision to the District Court. In court documents, a quote from Espinoza's mother was cited, reading "If Frank should go free, I know we will never feel safe again. We will be worrying if he will try and get one of us and take the kids away, to do harm. We fear for the safety of our lives and the safety of the kids.”
Nevertheless, the state may not introduce evidence from a defendant's previous convictions. Trial resumed on Tuesday.