Defense rests in Glenwood Springs murder trial
Defense attorneys for Gustavo Olivo-Tellez concluded their case Wednesday on the 11th day of the trial for the murder of Blanca Salas-Jurado in October 2016.
Olivo-Tellez, 29, informed the court Wednesday afternoon that he would not take the stand in his own defense. The prosecution and the defense will present their closing arguments Thursday before the jury is dismissed to deliberate on the charges, which includes first-degree murder.
The final day of witness questioning was contentious, as a defense investigator criticized how law enforcement officers from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation handled the interrogation and follow-up investigation of Olivo-Tellez.
After nearly four hours of interview following his arrest on Oct. 8, 2016, the day after Salas was killed, Olivo-Tellez switched from denying he shot Salas to signing a murder confession.
After that, according to defense witness Natasha Powers, a former homicide investigator in Palo Alto, Calif., investigators seemed to think “we got the confession, now we’re done.”
Defense attorney Garth McCarty asked what Powers would have done differently. Powers listed a number of questions that should have been asked once Olivo-Tellez started talking, especially after hours of false statements, to get more information.
After he signed his confession, a CBI investigator asked Olivo-Tellez when he decided to shoot Salas, and Olivo-Tellez said he had thought of it since Monday, four days before incident.
The question itself seemed like an afterthought, Powers said.
“If someone tells you I’ve been planning [a shooting] since Monday, that’s when you sit down, take a breath, and get all of these questions answered,” Powers said.
The whole confession should have been verified, particularly because it came after interrogators told Olivo-Tellez that his sometimes-girlfriend Michelle Castillo, who has pleaded guilty to accessory first-degree murder, was going to prison and would never see her daughter again.
During cross examination, District Attorney Jeff Cheney pushed back on the characterization that the investigation wasn’t thorough, and asked Powers whether she agreed that every detail in the confession had been corroborated. Powers said she could not recall every detail of Olivo-Tellez’ written statement.
The investigation was appropriate for a second-degree murder charge, but not for a first-degree charge, which should have had more investigation into motivation and planning, Powers said.
Earlier Wednesday, jurors heard testimony from Dawn Obrecht of Greeley, a medical doctor and specialist in treating addiction. She said that complex thinking required to reflect and consider one’s actions usually disappear with drug use, especially prolonged consumption of heavy drugs like methamphetamine.
Defense attorneys say that, because of Olivo-Tellez’ addiction to meth, which they say he ingested between 24 and 48 hours before the shooting, precluded his ability to form the sort of intent required for first-degree murder.
Colorado criminal code defines “after deliberation” in first-degree murder as “reflection and judgment concerning the act” prior to the crime. The code further stipulates that a crime committed after deliberation is “never one which has been committed in a hasty or impulsive manner.”
Obrecht was prevented by objections from stating a direct opinion on whether Olivo-Tellez could form that degree of intent before shooting Salas. But, she agreed that sort of thinking is impaired in a brain that has “been dysregulated by substances or intoxication.”
Prosecutors pointed to many of the tasks Olivo-Tellez completed prior to the shooting, including obtaining ammunition through Castillo, driving to Salas’ apartment, pushing his son into the hallway outside the apartment, and later throwing the weapon in a river, all while allegedly intoxicated.
Prosecutors called on forensic psychologist Dr. Loandra Torres Miller of Pueblo, who conducted an evaluation of Olivo-Tellez’ fitness to stand trial after his plea last spring of not-guilty by reason of insanity.
Miller said she was able to determine that “there was no mental illness, therefore there was nothing to prevent [Olivo-Tellez’] ability to form intent” at the time of the shooting. She did diagnose him with alcohol and methamphetamine use disorders.
Miller also revealed certain details of Olivo-Tellez’ memory of the shooting. He told Miller that Salas laughed at him, and that she said he was a bad father, an alcoholic and a drug addict.
Olivo-Tellez reportedly believed, perhaps due to paranoia, that Salas was sleeping with his friend and with his brother. Describing the photos that supposedly incensed Olivo-Tellez about Salas’ alleged infidelity, Miller said one appeared to be of bare knees, and the other the neck of a sweater, with no identifying features in either.
Miller said Olivo-Tellez recalled Salas saying “something to the effect of ‘two are better than half a man,’” relating to Olivo-Tellez having had testicular cancer.
Olivo-Tellez claimed to not remember what happened after that, Miller said.