MANTI—A Gunnison man who allegedly threw a crowbar off the roof of a house onto the head of a man who had become a rival in a ro- mantic relationship will face a charge of attempted murder, Judge Marvin Bagley ruled last week in 6th District Court in Manti.
Besides the attempted murder count, a second-degree felony, Randall Jay Christensen, 42, was originally charged with obstruction of justice because, despite a search warrant, he refused to give police the password to his cell phone.
But at a preliminary hearing on Wednesday July 13, Bruce Oliver of Mayfield, Christensen’s attorney, argued forcing Christensen to give police the password to his phone was a violation of his client’s Fifth-Amendment rights.
After Judge Bagley also expressed doubt about the obstruction-of-justice charge, Aerick Butler, deputy county attorney, withdrew it.
A probable cause (PC) statement filed with the court by Sgt. Tyler Donaldson of the Gunnison Valley Police Department following Christensen’s arrest on July 9 states Christensen had been dating a Gunnison woman.
However, the PC statement says, the woman had cut off the romantic aspects of the relationship and resumed a relationship with Kolby Street, also of Gunnison. The PC statement noted that the woman and Street have a child together.
In the PC statement, Donaldson wrote that on July 1, Christensen and Street had a verbal confrontation at the Maverik store in Gunnison. Later, Christensen called the woman and told her about the confrontation. According to the PC statement, the woman told him that she and Street had plans for the night. She told officers Christensen got quiet, then said, “Well don’t worry, he has his coming.”
Later, Donaldson wrote in the PC statement, the woman learned Christensen had sent emails to her sister accusing Street of abusing her. When informed of the emails, she went to Christensen’s house to confront him. Street learned from the sister that the woman was at Christensen’s house and went there to bring her home.
The PC statement says that while Street was talking to the woman and daughter outside the house, Christensen went out the back door, climbed a ladder onto the roof and threw the crowbar down on Street’s head. The impact caused a severe laceration of Street’s skull and a injury to his ankle.
According to the PC statement, Street said that despite the blow to his head, he was able to look up and see Christensen standing on the roof. The woman also said she saw Christensen on the roof immediately following the attack.
On July 2, according to the PC statement, officers attempted to locate Christensen at his home, but no one answered the door.but they observed a ladder leaning against the back of the house which led up to the roof.
Gunnison Valley officers made contact with Christensen on July 9. The defendant said he had been on the roof prior to Street’s arrival on the day Street was injured, but not while Street and the woman were at the house. He claimed the crowbar must have fallen off the roof. Nonetheless, the officers arrested Christensen for attempted murder.
Christensen had been scheduled to appear of the preliminary hearing by video hookup. But Oliver, Christensen’s attorney, objected to his client appearing remotely where he could not consult with him during the proceeding. Oliver demanded an in-person hearing.
When court reconvened, Butler laid out the basis of the charges against Christensen. He called Donaldson, who said testified to the events leading up to Christensen’s arrest. His testimony mirrored what he had written in the PC statement.
Oliver challenged Donaldson’s justification for the arrest and alleged that police had violated Christensen’s rights by asking him questions after he had invoked his right to remain silent.
At the end of the hearing, Oliver raised the question of bail for his client. Butler argued for holding Christensen without bail, saying he was a danger to the public, and particularly to Street and the woman involved.
Oliver said there was no evidence Christensen posed a danger to the public and alleged his client was not a flight risk and therefore should be granted bail.
Judge Bagley said he was worried about the defendant’s mental capacity. Oliver stated several times during the hearing that the defendant had mental challenges stemming from an automobile accident while returning home from a National Guard drill.
The attorney said the injury impaired his short-term memory and his impulses control. He said the Christensen is on full VA medical disability because of the injury.
The judge ordered that Christensen be held without bail pending the results of a competency evaluation and scheduled the next hearing in October. He said that once he has reviewed his results of the evaluation, the ball issue can be raised again.