Jury selection scheduled for Independence Pass beating case | AspenTimes.com

Jury selection scheduled for Independence Pass beating case

Chad Abraham

Jury selection for a California teenager’s trial on attempted first-degree murder will begin Nov. 8, a judge ruled Thursday.Cinthia Romero, 17, sat next to her attorney, Arnie Mordkin, as he and prosecutor Andrew Heyl discussed how many days they would need for a trial.The prosecution will likely call many witnesses, said Mordkin, who asked that seven or eight days be allotted for the trial.Included in Heyl’s witness list is Jaime Castro, Romero’s one-time boyfriend. Both were arrested a few months after police say they beat a girl with a golf club and left her for dead on Independence Pass last October. The girl and Romero, both of Bakersfield, Calif., ran away together before the victim was assaulted, allegedly because she said she wanted to return home and would turn in Romero and Castro if she had to.Castro pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in July and is serving his sentence in a youth-offender program in Pueblo.Heyl said he would likely only need five days for a trial, but Judge James Boyd, noting Mordkin’s request, scheduled 10 days.The Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s analysis of DNA evidence should be ready by the first week of October, Heyl said. He and Mordkin have argued repeatedly about that evidence, with Mordkin saying it is difficult for him to proceed until he knows what the results of the analysis are.The sides also discussed jury preparations and whether jurors will be supplied notebooks for the trial. Mordkin said neither he nor Heyl favors note-taking by jurors.

An Aspen man accused of molesting his daughter had a brief hearing in which his lawyer, public defender Greg Greer, said he would review the suspect’s finances.The man, who is not being named to protect the 5-year-old’s identity, was released recently after posting a $25,000 bond. Greer said because of that, it is necessary to verify if the suspect still qualifies for representation by the public defender’s office.Boyd told the suspect to find a lawyer immediately if he doesn’t qualify. The man is charged with aggravated incest and sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust. He will next appear in court Oct. 17. The sentencing hearing for Shaun Van Dyke, who pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault on a child in July, was continued.Van Dyke, 24, of Snowmass Village, was arrested in December after the 13-year-old victim’s mother told police the girl and Van Dyke had had a sexual relationship.Yesterday’s hearing was postponed because the terms of his probation and other sentencing issues are still being finalized, said his lawyer, John Van Ness.Van Dyke’s next hearing is Oct. 3. A Carbondale man wanted on charges of first- and second-degree assault was arrested Thursday morning and made his initial court appearance in the afternoon.Sheriff’s deputies arrested Billy Knoeppchen, 28, after he was spotted riding in a car on Highway 133. The charges stem from a fight several weeks ago at a campsite near Mount Sopris.He allegedly broke the jaw of one teenager with a large file and poked another in the eye.During the hearing, Greer said Knoeppchen will be able to get a lawyer from the public defender’s office.The judge imposed a restraining order against Knoeppchen that restricts him from having contact with the victims. He must also stay away from firearms, drugs and alcohol.Greer, saying the suspect grew up in the valley and has lived here for some time, requested a reduced bond. He said Knoeppchen rents a home near Avalanche Creek in the Crystal River Valley and works at a drywall business. The suspect also returned on his own volition from Montana, where he had a good-paying job as a roofer, to deal with the charges.His original bond was $50,000, and Heyl said that should be maintained. The prosecutor contended that Knoeppchen has a long history of arrests.Boyd lowered the bond to $15,000 and scheduled Knoeppchen’s arraignment for Oct. 17. A hearing for a woman charged with possession of cocaine and making a false report to police was continued.Pamela Branson, 49, of Aspen, told police in December that she had been raped. Officers spoke to her at Aspen Valley Hospital, where she had been taken with serious vaginal bleeding. A doctor there told police that a baggie allegedly containing cocaine had been removed from her body.The false report charge was filed after police say she repeatedly changed her story about the rape.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com

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