Judge binds suspect in Aspen attempted murder case over for trial
October 20, 2009
ASPEN – A judge ruled Monday there is sufficient evidence for Aaron Michael Anderson to stand trial for the attempted second-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend, despite her testimony that she did not fear for her life.
Pitkin County District Judge James Boyd also upheld a felony menacing charge following a preliminary hearing, but dismissed a second-degree count of assault resulting in bodily injury, saying the evidence presented during the hearing did not rise to the level necessary to pursue the charge.
Boyd said that by judging the evidence in the “light most favorable to the prosecution” – the standard to bind a case over to trial – the attempted murder charge could move forward.
“The defendant made multiple threats to kill [the alleged victim],” he said. “She didn’t perceive it that way, but with the combination of those threats and [testimony] that he put his forearm to her neck for a short period of time – we hear testimony that her [windpipe] was closed … for up to three seconds … and there’s the ongoing sequence of arguing … there’s enough probable cause.”
Anderson was arrested Sept. 3, an hour or so after he allegedly punched, elbowed and pinned down the woman, who suffered cuts to her eye, ear, cheekbone, right foot, right shin, right forearm, abdomen and throat. He also allegedly told the woman that “I will drive you up Independence Pass and throw your body off a cliff so no one can find you. I will then kill your mother.”
However, the alleged victim testified she felt Anderson was not going to kill her. Additionally, while police and prosecutors have said that Anderson wielded a kitchen knife on the victim, she testified that it was a butter knife and he did threaten her with it.
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“I wasn’t really afraid, but he was kind of out of control,” she said.
The victim also suggested that she had a role in the altercation, which began when Anderson discovered she had taken $25 in cash from his pants pockets while he was sleeping in his employee apartment at the Independence Square Lodge. The alleged victim testified she took the cash to buy gas to drive up Independence Pass, where she met her mother at the top. When she returned to Anderson’s place after the visit, he confronted her about it, and made demands for $500 and drugs, the alleged victim testified.
Tempers flared, and the girl struck him from behind, she said. That’s when the situation unraveled, she testified.
“I do have to add he was angry at me for more than just the money,” she said. “We had been fighting a fair amount, and we both agreed we needed a break from each other.
“I was supposed to leave Aspen for a while because our relationship had gotten to the point of needing a break.”
The woman testified that she regularly used cocaine intravenously, and claimed that might explain why her testimony Monday was not consistent with what she told Sgt. Robert Fabrocini of the Aspen Police Department on the day of the alleged attack.
Fabrocini, who also testified, said the woman was visibly shaken up and had a hard time formulating sentences when she tried to tell him what had happened.
The woman, who said she has not taken illegal drugs since Sept. 10, said she stayed up using cocaine until early in the morning the day of the alleged fight, and had had about three hours of sleep when she met Fabrocini, at approximately 6 p.m. She said she was upset and scared because of the alleged attack, but also suggested drugs fueled her behavior, adding she shot up cocaine, in her car, before she visited her mom that day. That was the last time she took cocaine before the Anderson episode, she said.
“In my general routine, that would be the time of day [6 p.m.] that I’m starting to crave drugs the most, so I can be irrational and I can be emotional and I was afraid and I was absolutely very emotional from what happened,” she said. “But I was also in the down-swing of having stayed up to 4 or 5 a.m. and slept a few hours and being up all day …”
Nevertheless, she said that Anderson displayed a type of behavior she had never seen before, testifying she had difficulty putting the events of the episode in sequence.
“I felt like Aaron got into a state where he was so angry he couldn’t control himself,” she said, tears flowing. “I really felt like I was looking at somebody I didn’t know but I had spent every night with this person for three months.
“It was just emotional; it’s hard to remember how things happened, and I don’t want to say things right here and now when I don’t know [the] sequence.”
Anderson had been in the custody of the Pitkin County jail, but was transferred to Park County earlier this month because of behavioral issues. On Friday he returned to the Aspen jail. And yesterday, he apologized to Boyd for not having stood up during previous court appearances when the judge entered the room.
“I didn’t know I was supposed to stand up … so I just want to apologize for not standing up for the first couple of times,” he said.
Replied Boyd: “I appreciate the apology, and I will accept it. You didn’t understand before and now you do.”
If convicted of the class-three felony of criminal attempt to commit second-degree homicide, Anderson faces eight to 32 years in prison. The menacing charge carries one to three years.
He is being represented by public defender Stephen McCrohan. Assistant District Attorney Arnold Mordkin is the lead prosecutor in the case.