Legal battle brews over 2nd mental evaluation for El Jebel murder suspect
The prosecutor and defense attorneys in the case of an El Jebel man accused of a 2014 double murder are preparing for a legal battle over a second opinion on the man’s sanity.
The suspect, Williams Amaya, was evaluated in fall at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo. The evaluation was turned over to Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman on Nov. 17, then shared with the attorneys.
“He’s deemed, you know, insane,” said Reed Owens, a public defender in the 5th Judicial District and co-counsel for Amaya along with Thea Reiff. The district attorney’s office almost immediately said it wanted a second opinion, based, apparently, on the fact it didn’t like the state mental hospital’s evaluation, Owens said in a hearing Wednesday.
Fifth Judicial Deputy District Attorney Joe Kirwan said his office had an expert in mental health take a preliminary look at the information available. Based on that assessment, they will file a motion for a second sanity evaluation, he said. Kirwan said the expert questioned why the state mental hospital didn’t perform a specific kind of psychological test on Amaya.
The District Attorney’s office will also hire a forensic psychologist to look at the evaluation at the state mental hospital to help build its case that a second evaluation is needed.
Dunkelman scheduled a hearing on the evidence for and against a second evaluation on Feb. 4. For now, a trial remains scheduled to start April 11.
Amaya is accused of shooting his aunt and uncle to death in the Sopris Village subdivision home where they lived in the El Jebel area. Amaya was renting a room from them. Multiple gunshot wounds from a handgun killed Mayra Lopez, 40, and Eliseo Lopez, 42. Amaya is also accused of attempted murder of the Lopezes’ two boys on the same night. They fled the house and were physically unharmed.
Amaya, 34, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in January. He is being held at Eagle County Jail without bond because he is considered a flight risk.
Reiff said during Wednesday’s hearing that Amaya should be at the state mental hospital for treatment. He was only kept there long enough for an evaluation because of a chronic shortage of beds there, she said.
“I am concerned about Mr. Amaya’s health at this point,” Reiff said.
Amaya didn’t speak during the hearing and wasn’t asked anything by the judge.
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