Paranoia, substance abuse cited in trial
MEEKER — A man heard imaginary, threatening voices from his father before killing him with a hatchet the night of July 2, 2009, in Rangely, a defense attorney told a jury Wednesday.
“In his broken and damaged mind he thought the only way to save himself was to kill his father, and he did,” Tamara Brady, a chief trial deputy for Colorado’s Office of the State Public Defender, said during opening arguments in the trial of 30-year-old Jerry Snider Jr.
Snider has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery.
Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson acknowledged Snider suffered from paranoia and hallucinations, but he said he doesn’t meet the definition for being legally insane under state law because his mental condition was the result of voluntary alcohol and substance abuse.
“He brought it upon himself,” Beeson said.
Testimony in Snider’s trial began Wednesday after a weeklong process of selecting a 12-person jury and four alternates.
In his opening arguments, Beeson quickly introduced jurors to what he called a “house of horrors,” the Rangely home of Jerry Snider Sr. On a projector, Beeson showed crime-scene photos that included the bloodied senior Snider dead on his living-room floor, the victim of multiple strikes to the head with a hatchet that investigators later found in the home.
However, Beeson concentrated his arguments not on the gory means of the killing, but on Snider Jr.‘s state of mind. He said jurors will hear comments Snider made to others indicating he knew killing his father was wrong, another indication he was sane.
Beeson said the evidence would show Snider had a long history of abuse of alcohol, methamphetamine and other substances, and although doctors over the years diagnosed paranoia, they said the abuse caused it.
Snider wasn’t under the influence of any substance when he killed his father, but he had just come off a self-described “seven-day bender” involving drinking, Beeson said. He said a psychiatrist from the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo will tell jurors that heavy alcohol use can so damage the brain that a person can feel its effects long after discontinuing use.
But Brady said another psychiatrist who has worked at that same facility will testify to having diagnosed Snider as being a paranoid schizophrenic, “based on a long history of being paranoid and hearing voices.”