El Jebel homicide suspect to seek mental evaluation before entering plea | AspenTimes.com

El Jebel homicide suspect to seek mental evaluation before entering plea

Williams Amaya

An El Jebel man accused of double murder in the shooting deaths of his aunt and uncle was given time by a judge Wednesday to get a mental evaluation before he enters a plea.

Williams Amaya asked through his attorney, Reed Owens, of the Colorado Public Defender's Office, for 90 days to get the evaluation.

"Judge, I guess I'll lay it out there for you and let you know our position," Owens said in a hearing. "As the court may have guessed — the prosecution is certainly aware of this — this case may involve certain statutory defenses."

He cited laws that allow a defendant an opportunity to be examined by their own expert to help determine if a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity or a plea of not guilty because of impaired mental condition will be entered.

"From the defense standpoint, we're still in the process of fleshing out whether or not that is appropriate in this case, how we wish to proceed," Owens said. Amaya was also advised by the Public Defender's Office about his right to the evaluation to help him make an informed decision on the plea, Owens said.

Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman said he would allow Amaya to delay entering a plea for the sake of the mental evaluation. Dunkelman scheduled a status conference and possible entering of a plea on Jan. 28. If an insanity plea is entered, the state also will perform a mental evaluation.

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The Aspen Times has learned that Amaya was treated for mental-health issues two years prior to the July 12 shooting. A Garfield County district judge signed an order March 29, 2012, directing the Garfield County Sheriff's Office to take Amaya to the state mental institution in Pueblo or to a local mental facility for evaluation. An in-law had informed authorities that Amaya had become delusional and thought he was the devil's son, according to a report. His then-wife was concerned that he was a threat to himself and her, the report said.

It couldn't be determined from public records how long Amaya was committed to the facility or if he entered a treatment program. He and his wife were divorced later in 2012, according to Garfield County District Court records.

At a preliminary hearing on Oct. 5 to determine if Amaya would stand trial on nine charges related to the 2014 shooting, another attorney from the Public Defender's Office contended that mental issues preceded the incident. Attorney Thea Reiff said that a recorded interrogation of Amaya by an investigator from the Eagle County Sheriff's Office showed mental issues had plagued Amaya. During the interview after his arrest on July 13, Amaya contended he wasn't related to the victims, Mayra and Eliseo Lopez. He also said the Lopezes and their two sons were "witches," according to testimony at the hearing.

Amaya is accused of shooting the Lopezes in their home in the midvalley subdivision of Sopris Village. Each of the victims was shot four times. Investigators also contend he fired shots into the beds of the Lopez boys, intending to kill them. The boys fled the house when their parents were shot, and one of them called 911. They escaped physical harm and are living with family in Aspen.

Dunkelman ruled Oct. 5 that there was enough evidence to hold over Amaya on two charges of first-degree murder and two charges of criminal attempt to commit murder in the first degree. He also is charged with five lesser crimes related to the incident. Amaya is being held in the Eagle County Jail without bond because he is considered a flight risk.

If Amaya enters a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, a jury will hear the prosecution's case and the defense on the shooting incident as well as evidence on his mental state. The jury would determine if he was insane at the time of the shooting.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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