Third continuance issued in Rifle murder case |

Third continuance issued in Rifle murder case

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Heath Johnston’s first-degree murder case was continued for a third time Tuesday morning.

Ninth Judicial District Court Judge Gail Nichols agreed to continue the arraignment hearing to May 5, but said that she wants to see some kind of progress at the next court hearing because it’s already been three months.

“I will want something entered on that date,” Nichols said.

Nichols expressed that she would like to have a plea entered and set the case for trial at the May 5 court date.

Public Defender Steve McCrohan requested the continuance because the defense is still awaiting a toxicology report on Johnston and reports regarding evidence related to the case from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The defense also wanted Johnston to undergo an extensive psychiatric evaluation.

While Nichols agreed with the continuance, she was anxious to get the case moving forward.

“This is a very serious case and he deserves the consideration of a very thorough investigation,” Nichols said.

Nichols continued the case for the second time in February based on a similar request from the defense, with some hesitation. She said at that court date that she didn’t want this case to drag on because of its serious nature.

Prosecutors charged Johnston with first-degree murder on Jan. 8. If convicted on that charge he could potentially face a life sentence, or the death penalty.

Johnston, 20, was arrested on Dec. 15 in Rifle on suspicion of first-degree murder after police responded to a shooting that evening. Johnston is accused of shooting his brother Sam Johnston, 26, in the head with a shotgun after Sam allegedly begged him to do so, according to an arrest affidavit. He remains in the Garfield County Jail on $2 million bond.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

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