SANDPOINT — A former Bonner County man serving a 25-year prison term for killing his wife and trying to pass her death off as a suicide is seeking a reduced sentence, 1st District Court records show.
Counsel for Stephen Mathew Lott is looking to capitalize on a 2018 Idaho Supreme Court decision which held that being charged with the crime of failing to notify authorities of a death can violate a defendant’s Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. If his attorneys succeed in getting the felony charge dismissed, Lott’s prison term could be shortened by 10 years.
The ruling cited by the defense involved a Spokane woman who disposed of the body of a suspected overdose victim in Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Lott, 50, was indicted by a grand jury on charges of first-degree murder and failing to notify the coroner or law enforcement of Christine Lott’s death. Christine Lott disappeared in 2004 and Stephen Lott gave shifting accounts of what happened to her over the next 12 years.
Stephen Lott relocated to Arizona and ultimately Tennessee after his wife’s disappearance.
Christine Lott’s remains were discovered in a remote section of forest east of Coeur d’Alene in 2016. Two years later, Stephen Lott was indicted by a Bonner County grand jury.
Stephen Lott entered Alford pleas to the failure-to-notify charge and an amended charge of voluntary manslaughter. Under the terms of the pleas, Lott admitted no wrongdoing but conceded that a jury could find him guilty in the case went to trial.
Judge Barbara Buchanan ordered Lott to serve 15 years on the manslaughter charge and an additional 10 years on the notification charge.
Public Defender Janet Whitney moved to dismiss the notification charge in light of the high court ruling. Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall objected, contending the supreme court case and the Lott case were factually and procedurally distinct, according to court documents. Marshall noted that did not take responsibility for his wife’s death.
Buchanan heard oral arguments on the motion on Monday and advised the parties that a written decision would be issued.
Lott is serving his sentence at the Idaho State Correctional Institution’s medical annex, according to the Idaho Department of Correction.
It emerged at sentencing that Lott is diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus and a related kidney issue.
Whitney advised the court that Lott is very ill, court records indicate.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.