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Clamato? More Like Clattempted Murder

Montana, Neighbors, Beer, Shellfish, and a pit bull with a missing toe

Jonathan Zalman
May 20, 2015
(Hanson: Missoulian; Clamato; Lewis: The Montana Standard)

(Hanson: Missoulian; Clamato; Lewis: The Montana Standard)

Here’s a bonafide don’t-tread-on-my-kashrut tale.

On May 8, some time before 10 p.m., a 59-year-old man named Monte Leon Hanson walked into Rainbow Bar in Hamilton, MT, a town of about 5,000 people. At the bar—a “f’ing nasty bar that stinks of stale beer and urine even when no one is there,” one patron opined—Hanson ordered a drink from the bartender, Joseph Lewis, who also happened to be his neighbor. Hanson’s drink of choice? A red beer.

A red beer, also apparently known as a “red eye,” is a cocktail that’s mostly beer mixed with some tomato juice—a hair-of-the-dog type masterpiece that’s sure to give its drinker a prodigious case of the runs. But I digress.

Back to the bar. So Lewis, 29, whipped up a red beer for Hanson, but rather than using tomato juice, Lewis mixed the beer with Clamato, a spicy tomato-y beverage that’s made with a hint of clam. And clam, of course, is a no-no for Hanson who, according to a felony complaint filed at the Ravalli County Attorney’s office, “became angry because it is apparently contrary to [his] religion, Judaism, to drink the Clamato juice.”

Pissed off, cocked, and perhaps with the taste of treyf on his tongue, Hanson left the bar and headed home to his apartment building, where he arrived at about 10 p.m. There, he told his neighbor Lance Hoth that he was upset; so upset that he planned to kill Lewis.

“Sleep it off,” Hoth told Hanson.

At the bar, Lewis talked to his girlfriend Jamie Ball, who had brought him dinner. He told her about the red beer snafu and told her that Hanson was acting weird.

Lewis came home from his shift at the bar at around 2 a.m. and decided to take his dog, a pit bull named Jackson, for a walk. Jackson had recently had a toe removed and was wearing a cast.

Because Lewis had left the door slightly open, Ball alleged that she saw Hanson follow her boyfriend down the hallway. Then she heard five gunshots. Lewis came back to the apartment and told his girlfriend that he had been shot.

Ball’s story apparently corroborates with Hoth’s, who said that he heard Lewis leave his apartment at 2:30, following by the sound two people walking together in the hallway. Shortly thereafter, Hoth heard 4-6 gunshots.

Hoth eventually opened his door and saw Lewis keeled over, and whining. Lewis then went back into his apartment and shut the door.

Hoth knocked on it.

“It’s Monte,” Lewis said to his girlfriend. “Don’t let him in.”

Two deputies in the area heard the gunshots and came to the scene. When they arrived, they saw Hanson walking on the street. He raised his hands and said that he wanted his attorney. They found a revolver with five spent casings in the cylinder. Hanson, the deputies report, was drunk.

So what happened to Lewis and Hanson?

Well, let’s start with the hobbling pit bull, Jackson. Jackson was shot in the head and died. Lewis was shot in the ribs but the bullet exited his body without hitting any vital organs. And Hanson, who is charged with attempted deliberate homicide (a felony) and cruelty to animals (a misdemeanor), remains in custody.

All over a mis-mixed, treyf cocktail.

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.