Defendant enters insanity plea in Glenwood murder case
Trial postponed indefinitely pending mental-health evaluation
A defendant who was set to stand trial next month for shooting and killing his estranged wife at her Glenwood Springs-area home in October 2016 has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Gustavo Olivo-Tellez, 28, was in District Court in Glenwood Springs Thursday with his attorneys, who were seeking to put off the trial until a determination can be made about their client’s mental state.
Olivo-Tellez allegedly shot Blanca Salas between three and five times on Oct. 7, 2016, while their 3-year-old son was in the home. The two had allegedly been fighting over custody of the child, according to court documents.
According to prosecutors, Olivo-Tellez ditched the gun and ammunition in the Roaring Fork River and fled with his girlfriend, Michelle Castillo. He was arrested in Grand Junction the next day at a hotel with Castillo, who later pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the murder.
Castillo was sentenced in December to 16 years in prison. According to court documents, Castillo drove the child to Grand Junction and dropped him off with a relative, then later connected with Olivo-Tellez. They were allegedly planning to head to California, police investigating the case said.
Olivo-Tellez pleaded not guilty on June 8, 2017, to a charge of first-degree murder after deliberation, a Class 1 felony, and was scheduled to stand trial starting May 14. He was allowed by Judge John Neiley at the Thursday hearing to amend his plea to add the insanity clause.
Ninth District Attorney prosecutor Don Nottingham said he asked for the special pre-trial hearing after the defense team had filed in early April for an endorsement of defenses and witnesses. Among the defenses was the insanity plea, Nottingham said.
To make that defense, however, requires expert testimony in regards to the defendant’s mental condition at the time of the offense, Nottingham argued in court. In any case, the court must order a full evaluation at the state mental health hospital in Pueblo, which wasn’t about to happen before the scheduled trial.
“It’s an exhaustive evaluation that must occur, and they are very overworked down there with a long backlog,” Nottingham said in a followup interview Friday. “That’s why we asked to bring it in to court.”
One of Olivo-Tellez’s attorneys, Garth McCarty, indicated in the hearing that an evaluator has seen his client, but that a report is still pending. Until that initial evidence is presented, the court can order a full evaluation in Pueblo, Nottingham explained.
A June 14 review hearing was set by Judge Neiley, but Nottingham said that could still be too soon to have a full evaluation completed to support the insanity plea and proceed to trial.
Nottingham said that state statute requires an insanity plea to be made at the time of arraignment, which would have been last June, or “if good cause,” at some reasonable time before trial.
Neiley determined that some time is needed if the defense indeed does intend to make a case for insanity. He also advised Olivo-Tellez that he would be giving up certain medical confidentiality privileges in doing so. The state evaluation must also be video-taped, Nottingham said.
Olivo-Tellez remains in the Garfield County Jail on a $2 million bond.
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