Indy Pass hostage-taker found sane
The Aspen Times
A Colorado Springs man accused of taking three strangers hostage at gunpoint on Independence Pass two and a half years ago has been found sane by psychiatrists at the state mental health hospital in Pueblo, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Brolin McConnell, 32, initially pleaded not guilty to the 18 felony counts filed against him, including attempted first-degree murder, but changed his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity in December 2017.
It has taken 14 months for McConnell to be examined at the state hospital and the results reported back to lawyers. The delay prompted his lawyers in November to ask that the charges against him be dismissed because of right to a speedy trial was being violated.
On Tuesday, prosecutor Sandy Kister said the long-awaited results indicated McConnell is not insane.
“He’s been found sane … and we’re ready to move forward,” Kister said. “We’d like to set this for trial.”
A lawyer for Harvey Steinberg’s Denver-based firm, who appeared by phone, instead asked that McConnell be examined by an independent psychiatrist. Ninth Judicial District Judge Chris Seldin granted the request, which will likely occur at the Pitkin County Jail in the next six-to-eight weeks.
McConnell allegedly brandished two handguns when he apparently randomly took three men hostage on Lincoln Creek Road on Independence Pass in July 2016. The former real estate broker allegedly forced the men to remove their shirts, repeatedly threatened to kill them and fired the guns at birds he told the men were drones.
Two of the men were able to run away, though the third had a leg injury and could not immediately get away from McConnell, who fired one of the guns at the man’s feet and next to his head. A nearby police officer said later he thought McConnell was going to kill the young man, though he eventually was able to run away.
McConnell gave up and was arrested without incident soon after that.
The last time McConnell appeared in court in early December, one of the young men he allegedly attacked told Seldin he would fear for his life every day if McConnell was released from jail on bond. That exchange prompted McConnell to lash out at the man, saying he was “sick of the victim’s lies.”
The next day, McConnell wrote Seldin a letter apologizing for his language and saying he lost his temper “right after the alleged victim spoke out against me, making a statement that simply is not true,” McConnell’s letter states.
“I’m writing this letter to you today, most likely against the wishes of my lawyer, mainly because of his lack of representing my character and arguing on my behalf,” according to the letter. “While he may know the law very well, he hardly knows me.”
McConnell told the judge in the four-page letter that he has no prior criminal record, was a real estate broker in Colorado and Florida before his arrest and grew up on a ranch in Sterling.
He also said he got married at the age of 20, has children and had “never even been in a single fist fight in my life” prior to his arrest, the letter states.
“The first time I ever encountered someone who might have endangered my life was about 3½ weeks before I arrived here,” McConnell wrote. “I literally freaked out.”
McConnell asked the judge to let him out of jail on a bond so he could spend time with his children and family.
“Your Honor, I have no clue who the victims are, nor do I have any interest in speaking to them or ever going near them, I can assure you,” according to the letter. “My plan is to live with my parents, be able to spend as much time with my kids as possible, get my teeth cleaned … enjoy time with my family in person and get a job so I have purpose again …”
On Tuesday, Seldin asked if McConnell and his lawyers wanted him to take any action on the request in the letter. His lawyer said he wasn’t asking for the letter’s requests to be addressed, and McConnell agreed.
His case was continued until April 15.
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Just in time for the holiday weekend, Maroon Creek Road will open today all the way to the Maroon Bells. Meanwhile, there is no confirmed date for Independence Pass to open.