Prosecution argues suspect’s mental state not a contributing factor in alleged March stabbing in Glenwood Springs

A mental evaluation conducted on a Glenwood Springs resident accused of attempted murder revealed a diagnosis of level one autism spectrum disorder, major depressive disorder with anxious distress and a deficiency in math.

Angel Rivas Tellez was 17 when he was arrested for allegedly entering a home by force in south Glenwood Springs at 2 a.m., March 8, and stabbing someone nearly 40 times while the person slept in bed.

Escorted from the Garfield County adult detention center next door before Judge James Boyd on Friday morning, Tellez’ psychiatric evaluation was broken down by public defense attorney Elise Myer and prosecutor Jeff Cheney. Both directed questions to Valarie Sims, a doctor in clinical psychology at Rocky Mountain Behavioral Medicine.

Sims was called to the stand to help determine whether Tellez should be transferred to the juvenile court system. He turned 18 in May. Friday’s court appearance had yet to determine whether he is to be remanded back to juvenile court.

According to Sims, she conducted a two-day evaluation on Tellez between June 9-10 at the request of Myer. This entailed analyzing Tellez’s mental, social, and educational abilities. The evaluations were done at the Garfield County Detention Center, while Sims and Tellez sat on opposite sides of a plexiglass partition.

Sims also said she reviewed medical and school records belonging to Tellez, while another Rocky Mountain expert spoke to Tellez’ mother, Rosella, in Spanish. This was to get an oral history of Tellez’ formative years and what, they argue, could’ve contributed to his recent mental diagnoses, which have essentially gone unmitigated until this point.

Sims said Tellez was diagnosed with ADHD while in seventh grade but didn’t receive a diagnosis of autism until her evaluation.

“In (Angel’s) case, I believe he was misdiagnosed,” she said.

Cheney questioned the validity of Sim’s diagnosis and argued that Tellez’ stated condition still didn’t keep him from possessing the mental ability to plan and carry out the alleged offense. 

According to Tellez’ interactions with Sims, he suffers various cognitive deficiencies like picking up nonverbal cues and struggling socially. He also exhibits unique speech patterns.

Meanwhile, Sims said the onset of autism can be detected as early as in-utero. Sims was told that Tellez’ mother was strangled by his biological father when she was eight months pregnant and, when he was an infant, was later kidnapped by his father.

Sims said the kidnapping may’ve led to what’s called disorganized attachment, thus exacerbating the presence of autism. 

“He was so scared at the time, and that’s when they came to the United States,” she said.

Friday’s court appearance also revealed that Tellez allegedly responded with violence toward the victim due to bullying and broken trust. 

“For somebody else to share that can be just devastating,” Sims said. “Especially when the trust was there.”

Sims said, since late middle school, Tellez admitted to inflicting self-harm, like cutting.

Cheney argued that Tellez’ stated condition still didn’t keep him from possessing the mental capacity to plan and carry out the alleged offense.

Cheney specifically questioned Sims on whether doing an evaluation in two days was adequate enough to make the diagnosis and whether Meyer’s original request to perform the evaluation had influenced Sims’ diagnosis.

“Does having a deficiency in math affect knowing right from wrong?” Cheney said.

“No, of course not,” Sims said.

Cheney also questioned the validity of Tellez’ mother’s statements on being strangled while being eight months pregnant and her son’s kidnapping as an infant. Sims said her job is not to investigate but evaluate, and that she did not contact Mexican authorities to obtain any possible documents corroborating Tellez’ mother’s claims.

Cheney pointed out that Tellez drives a car, works and attends school without constant supervision, and that he was cognizant enough to allegedly ditch his clothes after he committed the crime, and he would again question whether Tellez’ mental state and background details kept him from carrying out the crime.

On Friday, Meyer would also ask Sims about discrepancies in resources between the Division of Youth Services and the Department of Corrections. Sims said Tellez possesses a low- to medium-risk factor when it comes to committing further crimes, and that would “dramatically decrease with treatment.” Sims pointed out that — through working with colleagues involved in the correctional system — youth services have several more requirements and accommodations like therapy and getting a high school diploma compared to the DOC.

Myer submitted a request for more discovery this past Wednesday, and Boyd agreed to hold a status conference at 1 p.m. Nov. 4. During this time, Boyd said they will set a date for closing arguments.

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