Ray Dolin, the hitchhiker who shot himself last year in a hoax to promote his alleged book about the kindness of America, was sentenced in District Court in Glasgow on Monday. Judge John McKeon accepted the plea agreement that imposed a four-year deferred sentence for the felony charge of tampering with evidence and six-month suspended sentences for the two misdemeanor charges of making a false report and obstructing an officer.
Dolin, 41, was also fined a total of $2,000 and required to pay $5,583 in restitution to the Valley County Sheriff’s Office for overtime and travel expenses incurred in the case.
The felony charge of tampering with evidence, throwing away his gun, could have put Dolin away for 10 years and cost him $50,000.
The story of the West Virginia photographer who was shot June 9, 2012, while hitchhiking across Montana to write a book made international news. Dolin described a dirty maroon pickup truck that approached him at the historical marker 3 miles west of Glasgow. He said he thought the man was going to give him a ride, but the man shot him and drove away.
Coming hard on the heels of the abduction and murder of Sherry Arnold, the teacher from Sidney, and the shooting death of an EMT at the hospital by a mysterious gunman in 2009, this story galvanized regional law enforcement.
Sheriff Glen Meier testified, “After the incident in Sidney … we were a little jumpy up here. We did not want a shooter loose.”
The maroon pickup was located just four hours later near Culbertson and the intoxicated driver was arrested. He was from Washington state and had a history of gun offenses. The distinctive tires had made tracks at the historical marker and backtracking the truck’s GPS showed it had been there.
The problem was, the pickup contained no gun or ammunition. The GPS placed it somewhere else at the time of the shooting.
Dolin had shot himself in the shoulder with a gun he had bought before leaving on his trip. He threw the five-shot .22 magnum Derringer-type pistol into a field, then invented the pickup and the assault. The driver was a victim of a huge coincidence but only guilty of drunk driving.
When deputies confronted Dolin, his story unraveled and he confessed.
Dolin was suffering from a bipolar episode, depression and anxiety when these events occurred, according to testimony in court Monday. He has no significant criminal or drug history. He has a college degree and was honorably discharged from the Army.
Valley County Attorney Nickolas Murnion said he has cooperated with law enforcement and is continuing mental health treatment at a VA hospital in Michigan.
Before hearing his sentence, Dolin apologized in court. He was neatly dressed in a plaid shirt and dark gray pants, with his head shaved.
“I am very deeply sorry for all the trouble I caused Valley County and the state of Montana,” Dolin said. “Thank you for this second chance.”