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RBC I A preliminary hearing for Jerry Snider Jr. — charged with killing his father — was set for March as the first-degree murder case moves closer toward a trial.
“At this point, the case is on trial track,” said Tina Fang, who heads up the Glenwood Springs Public Defender’s Office and is representing Snider Jr.
“We’re in position to hold a speedy trial,” Fang said. “Our request today is to set the case for preliminary hearing … to determine if there’s probable cause. We have to make a probable cause determination before setting a trial.”
Snider Jr. is charged with killing his father, Jerry Snider Sr., 50, over the Fourth of July weekend. The elder Snider’s body was found July 3 in the living room of his house in Rangely.
In October, Snider Jr. pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and was court ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo for insanity as well as competency to stand trial.
In December, the district attorney’s office filed a motion stating it “will not seek the death penalty in this case.”
Snider Jr. appeared in district court Friday at the Rio Blanco County Courthouse. As with his previous court appearances, the courtroom was cleared and anyone wanting to reenter had to go through a security check before being allowed back in the courtroom. Five armed sheriff’s officers stood in the courtroom throughout the proceedings.
As in Snider Jr.’s previous court appearances, several members of his family were present for Friday’s proceedings. However, unlike in his previous appearances, Snider Jr., seated at the defendant’s table along with his attorneys, did not turn back and look at his family members seated in the courtroom.
At the conclusion of Snider Jr.’s court appearance in October, a family member, who asked not to be identified, said the family had no comment.
“No, not right now,” the family member said. “Probably not until toward the end. I’m glad you’re here, but I know they don’t (want to talk to the media). At this point, we don’t have anything to say. The family isn’t ready to talk at this point. We’re not ready for that. This will be a long, drawn-out process. The family, this is rough on them. It’s a horrible thing.”
While results of Snider Jr.’s psychiatric tests were not made public, the case is moving forward.
“What I’m hearing is an offer from the defendant to have a speedy trial,” said Martin Beeson, attorney for the 9th Judicial District, which represents Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties. “I don’t have an objection to that request.”
While no trial date was set, Judge Gail Nichols, in consultation with attorneys for both sides, scheduled the preliminary hearing for March 22.
“You’re going to make me do a first-degree prelim on my birthday?” Beeson asked the judge, jokingly.
Snider Jr., through his attorney, waived his right to have a preliminary hearing within 30 days.
“We need to do this (hold the preliminary hearing) within 30 days. How about Feb. 16?” asked Judge Nichols.
“I can’t be ready for a preliminary hearing in that short of notice, sorry,” Snider Jr.’s attorney said. “We can look outside of 30 days, judge.”
Nichols told Snider Jr., “I will accept the waiver. You gave up the right of 30 days … where the prosecutor has to prove there’s probable cause you’re guilty of the charge.”
Generally, from the time of entry of a plea, there is six-month time period to have a case brought to trial, in what is referred to as the six-month rule. However, when a defendant enters an insanity plea, as in the Snider Jr. case, there is a provision that the six-month clock is not running.
“When the date started to toll” in the Snider Jr. case is yet to be determined, Judge Nichols said.
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John Parks of Rangely, arrested in May and charged with retaliation against a witness and menacing, had his case continued for 60 days Friday, so he can “take care of” an outstanding warrant he has in Washington state.
“I’m very concerned there’s a felony warrant out there in Washington. That just isn’t a good thing, Mr. Parks,” said Judge Nichols. “I don’t reject the (plea) deal, but I’m postponing it until the Washington case is addressed. If the Washington case is resolved, then we can go forward with the deal.”
Parks, who faces a felony charge in Washington for possession of a controlled dangerous substance, had agreed to a plea agreement for three years probation in the Rangely case. However, the judge questioned Parks’ plea.
“I have a concern … he pled guilty to menacing, and I believe there’s a factual basis for that, but now he’s saying he didn’t do it, which is a concern,” Nichols said. “I am concerned, Mr. Parks … you’re willing to plead to something you believe you didn’t do.”
Parks’ attorney, Pete Rachesky, said, “He agrees he scared somebody, but he didn’t mean to.”
Jay Barasch, deputy district attorney, said the victim in the case “only agreed to the plea … if the defendant would agree to continue to have the restraining order in place (during probation). None of those conditions have changed.”
Judge Nichols said, “If I put him on probation, the first condition is he go to Washington and take care (of the outstanding warrant).”
The judge set Parks’ sentencing for April 16.
“You have 60 days to report to Washington and get rid of the warrant,” Nichols instructed Parks.
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David Mitchum, a former Meeker resident who now lives in Texas, pleaded guilty Friday to an amended charge of criminal attempt to commit sexual assault on a child under the age of 15. The incident occurred in March 2008 at the Parker House — a boarding house — in Meeker, where Mitchum lived at the time.
Deputy district attorney Barasch said Mitchum and the victim were at a party together. At one point, when they were together in the kitchen, Mitchum asked the girl to lift up her shirt, and he touched her breasts. She was 13 at the time; he was 37.
“Did you take that step with the intent to commit that crime?” the judge asked Mitchum.
After conferring with his attorney Bill Schurman, Mitchum said, “Yes, ma’am.”
“I find there is a factual basis for your guilty plea,” Judge Nichols said.
“I think there’s more to the story that will come out during sentencing,” Mitchum’s attorney said.
“I agree there’s more to the story,” said deputy district attorney Barasch, who added, “I have informed the two other (underage) victims, and they are on board. I don’t believe any have problems with the plea.”
The two other victims live in Meeker, the third victim does not.
Mitchum will undergo a psychological-sexual evaluation before sentencing, which was set for April 16.
The charge against Mitchum includes a requirement he register as a sex offender. In 10 years, he would be eligible to ask for the requirement to register as a sex offender be removed.
However, Judge Nichols told Mitchum, “There’s nothing you can do to make it binding on the court in 10 years. The court can’t guarantee you’d have the right to have the requirement to register lifted. And, even if you have the right, the court could say no.”
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Father and son John and Johnny Wix of Meeker appeared in court Friday.
“Let’s start with junior first,” Judge Nichols said, calling 18-year-old Johnny Wix.
Johnny Wix, a senior at Meeker High School, was arrested Jan. 12 and charged with selling marijuana to minors.
His case was continued until March 19.
“Make sure you stay in touch with your attorney,” the judge told Johnny Wix.
Nichols also gave approval for Johnny Wix to leave the state and visit a college in California. He will be accompanied by a parent.
“You have my permission,” the judge said.
In the case of John Wix, the father, his trial “will undoubtedly get bumped,” Judge Nichols said Friday. The trial has been scheduled to start March 1.
Wix was charged in an Aug. 1 underage drinking incident where a 15-year-old girl was tested the next day for a potentially lethal level of alcohol poisoning. In September, Wix pleaded not guilty to the charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a class 4 felony.
While the judge told Wix the case will go forward, the original trial date may be pushed back, due, in part, to a scheduling conflict.
“There’s a good chance we might have a new (trial) date determined, but there’s not a guarantee,” deputy district attorney Barasch said. “I have to prepare as we’re going on March 1, until I hear officially the dates have been changed.’
No next court date for the elder Wix was set, but a status conference call with the judge and attorneys from both sides was planned for today.
“I want to keep this going. It (the case) is getting old,” Nichols said. “Both the public and Mr. Wix have a speedy trial right.”