1998 Montana murder case dragged on as opportunities missed

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — More than 17 years after he slashed the throat of a teenage clerk while robbing a Montana video rental store, Zachary O’Neill says guilt overcame him and he tried telling authorities he was the culprit.

But it was another three years after he first confessed in a psychiatric hospital, and later to sheriff’s investigators, before the admitted drug addict and petty criminal appeared in court for the 1998 murder of 18-year-old Miranda Fenner.

On Friday, O’Neill is scheduled to be sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty last month.

His thwarted 2016 confession underscores a series of apparent missed opportunities for investigators over two decades.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito says it was important to make sure the case against him would stick.

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