Sex assault suspect, 91, angers judge
Grand Junction Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
GRAND JUNCTION ” A 91-year-old sex offender’s apparent day-to-day hearing problems drew the ire of a judge on Wednesday.
Ralph Ridenour ” appearing Wednesday wheelchair-bound, head slumped down and unresponsive to questions ” was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation and a competency exam at Grand Junction’s Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“The court finds he’s just playing games with the court,” an angry County Court Judge Gretchen Larson said.
Ridenour, a resident of Palisade’s Living Center, was jailed Sunday on allegations he tried to pull down the pants of a female nurse who’d just given him medication. He also threatened to rape her, according to his arrest affidavit.
Wednesday marked Ridenour’s second appearance before Larson in three days: On Monday, Larson appointed the public defender’s office to represent Ridenour, who was unresponsive to questions.
“The court learned just before this hearing, Mr. Ridenour could acknowledge (Mesa County jail) deputies, but could not hear me,” Larson said Wednesday.
Ridenour Wednesday was pushed by deputies into Larson’s courtroom in a wheelchair ” he was also fitted with hearing aid headphones.
“Can you hear me, Ralph?” a deputy in the courtroom asked.
Ridenour said nothing during Wednesday’s brief hearing, his head bowed.
Deputy Public Defender Stacie Nelson told the judge her talks with Ridenour in the jail were somewhat successful.
“Even when we were able to communicate, it seemed he wasn’t aware of the circumstances,” Nelson said.
Palisade authorities suggest Ridenour fakes senility.
“Ralph told me to get out of the room because he had a gun and would shoot me,” a Palisade officer wrote in the affidavit. “Ralph then kicked me in the right thigh from his bed. He attempted to kick me twice more from his bed but missed.”
When placed under arrest, Ridenour “suddenly appeared unable to walk to help himself,” the affidavit said.
Ridenour was convicted in March 2000 of sexual assault on a child, involving no force.
Palisade Police Sgt. Bobby Sowler said on Tuesday Ridenour was the only registered sex offender residing at the Palisade Living Center, although the facility “had another guy a while back.”
Ridenour could be formally charged on Nov. 13.
Larson ordered Ridenour transported Wednesday afternoon from the jail to Grand Junction’s Veterans Administration Hospital.
“He’s probably not a flight risk at this time,” the judge said.