Dillon woman sentenced in 2020 murder

“Sammy” Johnson awaits trial after declining plea deal
Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, October 13, 2021

From left, Moore, VanDuinen, Johnson.

A local woman who admitted to strangling her boyfriend to death in January 2020 was sentenced to 40 years in the Montana State Prison Tuesday in Fifth Judicial District Court.

Sandy Moore, 21, was sentenced by Fifth Judicial District Court Judge Luke Berger Tuesday afternoon. Moore previously pleaded guilty to felony mitigated deliberate homicide, admitting to getting into an argument with 49-yearold Larry Coon and strangling him with a rope, causing his death.

The sentence was handed down after the Dillon Tribune’s print deadline. The full print version will appear in the Oct. 20 print edition.

Coon was found dead in his home on Thomsen Avenue Jan. 11, 2020. Dillon police found him hidden behind a washer and dryer with a bag over his head, and Moore was arrested at that time. An autopsy determined Coon died of strangulation sometime between Jan. 8 and Jan. 11, 2020.

Co-defendant Cristina VanDuinen, 25, previously pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to tamper with evidence, and admitted she agreed to help Moore hide Coon’s body and provided a suitcase to her for that purpose.

Co-defendant Kerry “Sam” Johnson of Dillon has pleaded not guilty to felony obstructing justice in the case, for allegedly knowing about Coon’s death and delaying reporting it to police. His trial is set for next year.

VanDuinen will not be sentenced until after providing testimony in Johnson’s trial, which is required as part of the plea agreement she has with the Beaverhead County Attorney’s office. She is held in the Beaverhead County Jail on $200,000 bond; she has been in jail since her arrest in January 2020.

Moore was originally charged with felony counts of deliberate homicide and tampering with physical evidence. The charge was amended to mitigated deliberate homicide and the second charge dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

Johnson faces separate charges for felony bail jumping when he failed to appear for a pretrial conference in the murder case. He has yet to enter a plea in that case, and faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum $50,000 fine on the charge. He is also held in the Beaverhead County Jail.

Johnson has a separate, pending case for an unrelated incident in July 2020, when he was out on bail for the murder case. In that instance, he was accused of criminal trespass, by using a railroad crossing which he had no legal right to use to access his property. During the investigation, police discovered a stolen vehicle on the property, allegedly containing a woman’s purse with what appears to be methamphetamine in it, and drug paraphernalia. He is charged in that case with felony counts of obstruction of justice, theft, criminal possession of dangerous drugs and misdemeanor possession of dangerous drugs.