‘Release’ of Rifle shooter would be only temporary | AspenTimes.com

‘Release’ of Rifle shooter would be only temporary

John Colson
Post Independent
Aspen, CO, Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Steven Michael Stagner, who shot and killed four people in Rifle in 2001 and is confined to a mental hospital in Pueblo, is not eligible for release yet, a deputy district attorney said Tuesday.

But Stagner, 53, could be let out of the institution periodically for therapy and rehabilitation off the grounds on a supervised basis under a plan outlined in recent court documents, said Andrea Bryan, deputy district attorney.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Sept. 13 before Garfield District Judge Denise Lynch.

Stagner has been confined at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo since June 26, 2002. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity on Oct. 8, 2002.

District Judge T. Peter Craven also found that Stagner had committed the acts of which he was accused, which included killing four people and wounding three others in a mass shooting.

The shootings took place a few minutes after midnight on July 4, 2001, in the City Market parking lot on Railroad Avenue in Rifle and at an RV park across the street, according to court documents. All the victims were Mexican nationals.

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Bryan, who is handling the Stagner case for 9th District Attorney Martin Beeson, could not be reached for comment Monday. Beeson and others on his staff also could not be reached because they were out of town for a Colorado district attorneys’ conference.

In addition, the Glenwood Springs office of the Colorado Public Defender’s Office, which will represent Stagner at the hearing, was closed Monday, preventing a reporter from contacting Stagner’s attorney.

Court documents indicate that Stagner, acting as his own attorney, had filed a motion asking for a hearing before a six-person jury on his request to be temporarily released for treatment and rehabilitative therapy. The judge did not rule on that motion, and there are no plans for a jury trial.

A subsequent motion, filed in February by officials with the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, notified local authorities that the hospital was preparing to embark on a plan of “temporary physical removal for treatment and rehabilitation” unless 9th Judicial District authorities objected.

The institute’s motion was intended to supersede Stanger’s motion, and Stanger’s motion was withdrawn, Bryan said. But Stagner’s motion remained in the file with no indications that it had been withdrawn, resulting in an incomplete report the Post Independent published Tuesday.

“Mr. Stagner is not statutorily eligible for release at this time,” Bryan emphasized, explaining that the institute notification was a request that Stagner be allowed out of the Pueblo institution on what Bryan termed “supervised community outings during the day.”

Beeson’s office has objected to the plan the institute proposed.

“In light of the extreme and severe nature of the defendant’s mental illness, its highly unpredictable nature and the deadly consequences (of that mental illness), the people strongly object to temporary removal of defendant from (the institute),” the DA’s objection stated.

The DA’s objection also noted that the institute’s plan is lacking in details about how Stagner would be supervised, as well as about “what type of (therapy) the defendant would be engaging in or how it will be possible to keep him within eye’s sight at all times.”

The hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in the Garfield County Courthouse building, 109 Eighth St., Glenwood Springs.

jcolson@postindependent.com