Poitra Found Guilty on All Three Counts

Justice for Robert Ernst in the first of three trials, as Dennis Poitra, Jr. is found guilty September 2, 2010 on all three counts for which he'd been charged.
Justice for Robert Ernst in the first of three trials, as Dennis Poitra, Jr. is found guilty September 2, 2010 on all three counts for which he'd been charged.

It took the jury just under three hours to render three guilty verdicts in the State vs. Dennis Poitra, Jr. case in 4th Judicial District Court Thursday evening.

At 2 o'clock, the jury convened to hear instructions from Judge John Fenn. Among the instructions, he explained the three counts and the subtexts of each.

For Count 1 – Felony Murder in the 1st Degree, in order to find Poitra, Jr. Guilty, they would need to agree that on or about August 26th, 2009, in Sheridan County, the defendant, Dennis Poitra, Jr. did kill Robert Ernst while in the commission of a burglary. While Poitra himself did not pull the trigger, Judge Fenn clarified that the law states that if two or more persons are equally engaged in the act of burglary and a person is killed, then all parties are equally responsible for the murder.

For Count 2 – Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Burglary, in order to find Poitra, Jr. Guilty, they would need to agree that on or about August 26th, 2009 in Sheridan County, the defendant, Dennis Poitra, Jr. entered into an agreement with one or more persons, and to arm themselves with the intent to commit burglary and then went forth with said plan.

Within the context of this count, the defendant had to be found guilty of one or more of the following overt acts: that one or more of the perpetrators did arm themselves with a firearm; that one or more of the perpetrators did arm themselves with a landscaping timber; that one or more of the perpetrators did obtain a flashlight; and that one or more of the perpetrators obtained a knife to be used to cut window and door screens, thereby providing access to a house.

For Count 3 – Aggravated Burglary, in order to find Poitra, Jr. Guilty, the jury would have to agree that on or about August 26th, 2009 in Sheridan County, the defendant, Dennis Poitra, Jr., entered an occupied structure without authorization to do so, with the intent to commit burglary, armed with a deadly weapon.

Judge Fenn defined “aggravated” as using an item in a way that is outside of its intended purpose with the intent of harming another person.

Judge Fenn then told the jury that in order to render a Not Guilty verdict on any of the three counts, they would need to find that reasonable doubt exists, and that in Dennis Poitra, Jr.'s case, the reasonable doubt would be because of chemical intoxication causing the defendant to not know what he was doing at the time the crimes were committed.

The jury went into deliberations at about 3:15 pm. Approximately two hours later, the jury made a request to listen once more to Poitra, Jr.'s audio confession he made to DCI agents Williams and McDonald. Counsel, family members of Robert Ernst, friends of Poitra, Jr.'s and others were present to listen, finishing the audio at approximately 5:50. They reached a verdict shortly thereafter, and Dennis Poitra, Jr. stood before Judge Fenn as Clerk of District Court Nicki Arney read the verdict for each count. She also indicated that the jurors marked all four overt acts within Count 2. A poll was taken of each juror at the request of Defense Attorney Erin Wardell, with all twelve jurors indicating that that was their “true and honest verdict.”

Judge Fenn told Dennis Poitra, Jr. that a pre-sentence investigation would take place, after which a sentencing date would be set. Meantime, his bond has been revoked and he was remanded back into the custody of the Sheridan County Sheriff and transported to the Sheridan County Detention Center.

Wyatt Bear Cloud is currently scheduled as the next trial in the Ernst Murder case. As of now, jury selection is set for the morning of Monday, September 13th.

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Dennis as young boy

This deeply saddens me because I knew both Mr. Ernst and Dennis. I knew Dennis very well as a child for several yrs. He was so very sweet and kind. Never in my mind did I ever think something like this could happen to either one of them. I always like Dennis and he used to call me Mom. It is very sad to think this is what has become of his life, when he had possibilities for so much more. I will not judge him or anyone else on here because this case only serve to show us we should all be cautious about decisions we make in life and maybe more willing to lend a helping hand to someone who needs help before it is too late, as in this case. My sympathies to both parties involved.



i am dennis poitra jr.s sister and i sat in there the whole time..i guess if you wanna call him a murdering coward well thats up to you and you didnt personally know him.this is extremely hard on our family as well as the ernst family..one that i may never get to see my brother out again and two because a dear family lost someone and it didnt have to be that way..the three of them made a very horrible decision and them, their families and the ernst family will have to suffer with this the rest of our lives..i still love my brother and this hurts very bad..and to the Ernst family, i pray for you all the time and i hope that after all this is over you can find some closure to all of this i know that you will never forget this and the pain will never fully go away but maybe it can get a little easier for you..thank you all who told me, my sis and bro that you admire us for telling the truth and turning them in..it was the hardest thing i have ever had to do. but thank you for facing us and telling us that because even though it hurts you all made it a little easier for us and you didnt have to..if you ever need anything pls let me know and i truly am sorry for your loss..your in my prayers..jennifer


No matter his actions

No matter his actions concerning the crime, I think it was a positive thing that your brother took the stand and tried to as best he could explain his actions that night.

I am really surprised at the

I am really surprised at the civility given how people on this site can sometimes be. My heart goes out to not only the Ernst family but to you too Jennifer. They are two opposite scenarios I don't ever want to imagine: to be in the courtroom facing the person who had a part in my husband or father's murder, or in your case, being the person responsible for turning a loved one in. For both sides, sitting through the trial must have been excruciating. All of you are in my prayers.

thank you so much..for your

thank you so much..for your kind words and i know how alot of people feel about my brother and its understandable..believe me if this was my father, husband or grandpa i would be furious..but please understand that comments like that hurt us alot more too and maybe it would do me and my family alot of good not to read these comments it would probably hurt alot less..but right now its hard not to..after all this happened me and my family got restricted calls being threatened by alot of people, it was like they were acting like me and my family did this..so that was very scary and hurtful..but we have never and never will forget about the Ernst family and all of our hearts go out to them..jennifer


I think your comments and

I think your comments and sentiment towards the Ernsts are very kind. I don't doubt that this has been very hard on you and your family. You will also be suffering a loss. I did not know your brother. If you find my comments offensive, I'm sorry. But he is guilty of being partially to blame for taking a person's life. Now he will suffer the consequences as he should.

wyoming56 YEH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




I think the most bothersome

I think the most bothersome part of this case was that it was so random. Most murder cases are between people who knew each other like family fights or money deals gone bad. This could have happened to anyone, the only thing Mr.Ernst did was go to bed that night.

Your absolutely correct. If

Your absolutely correct. If not for barking dogs or motion sensor lights, it would have been someone else.

Thanks to the prosecutors,

Thanks to the prosecutors, law enforcement and jurors for all of the work that probably went into this trial. Good to know that justice has prevailed and that one murdering coward will be kept off the streets for a long time.


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