Teen accused of killing his father back in court
EAGLE — By all accounts he’s a nice kid, that boy charged with shooting his father twice in the head and killing him.
He was back in court Friday, before District Court Judge Fred Gannett.
Gannett has handled some curious cases. Serial killer Ted Bundy was one. Hunter S. Thompson was another.
Gannett also handles most of the juvenile cases, which is why this — possibly the most curious case of them all — landed in his courtroom.
The boy celebrated his 14th birthday in Mount View, the juvenile facility in Jefferson County where he’s being held. He might get his braces off soon, but didn’t Friday. The orthodontist wasn’t available.
The boy wore a black T-shirt in court Friday, an honor given to those in his juvenile facility who are doing the best they can. The long-ish hair he used to wear was cut short and he sat quietly between his two attorneys from the public defender’s office.
When it was done and he as he was being escorted back to jail, Gannett wished the boy safe travels back to Mount View.
Attorneys for both the prosecution and defense were compassionate and sensitive as they argued their sides.
Defense attorney Reed Owens told the court they would waive their right to a preliminary hearing, a proceeding where the judge determines if there’s enough evidence to take the case to trial. That standard is low, under Colorado law, and there almost always is.
Usually in a preliminary hearing, police investigators take the witness stand and tell the court what they think happened. They’re cross examined by defense attorneys looking for holes in the story, or trying to put them there. In most cases, though, the story stands and the case is sent to trial.
Defense attorneys can forego all that if they think there’s nothing to be gained by putting their clients through it. In this case, Owens decided to take a pass on the boy’s preliminary hearing.
Owens asked that as the case moves forward, some of the proceedings be closed to the public. District Attorney Bruce Brown said prosecutors would agree that some things, if seen by prospective jurors, might be difficult to un-see. There’s a phone video, and medical and personal information about the family.
Owens argued that different rules apply in juvenile cases. He cited the special protections under Colorado’s juvenile code.
“Eagle County is a small community and based on conversations I’ve had … there seems to be a lot of rumors and misinformation released into the ether in this community,” Owens said. “There are complex social and personal components that they (prospective jurors) will deal with.”
Brown agreed that while there are elements that might influence a jury pool, they could work around those.
“The rumors and innuendo referred to is exactly why the hearing should be made public,” Brown said.
Gannett said that some things might not be proper for public viewing by potential jurors, but he likely would not close an entire hearing.
“In the case of a death at the hands of another there are policies that support an open proceeding,” Gannett said.
What police say happened
The saga began April 30 when the victim, the boy’s father, was scheduled to meet with Eagle County sheriff’s deputies to discuss a graffiti investigation. The father didn’t show up.
Early Monday morning, five days later, the father’s employer contacted the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. The employer told deputies that the juvenile son had called in, several days in a row, stating that his father was ill and would not be at work.
Eagle County Undersheriff Mike McWilliam said it seemed suspicious, so deputies stopped by to make sure everything was OK.
That Monday morning around 11:30 a.m., a deputy stopped by the Gypsum home where the boy was living with his father. When deputies arrived the boy answered the door and told deputies that his 50-year-old father was dead in the residence. Eagle County Coroner Kara Bettis said the man died from two gunshots to the head from a .22 caliber firearm.
The boy was taken into custody and faces first degree murder charges.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.