After nearly two-year wait, trial to begin for man, 70, in assault of companion

After almost 22 months during which William Rydell has been locked up in the Mesa County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bond, his friends are hoping his day in court finally has arrived.

Prosecutors feel the same way.

Rydell, 70, faces one count of attempted first-degree murder, forcible sexual assault and other charges stemming from an alcohol-fueled incident in which he is accused of striking and choking his female companion in his apartment at 999 Bookcliff Ave. on Dec. 5, 2008.

Jury selection is to begin today before Mesa County District Judge Richard Gurley.

“Yeah, this case is old,” prosecutor Mark Hand said last week.

It has been delayed in part because Rydell changed lawyers, because of a delay by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and because of a family emergency for Rydell’s attorney, Colleen Scissors, in April.

“We’re hoping to get it done” this week, Hand said.

The woman had to be revived by emergency medical technicians, and Rydell tried to commit suicide when he discovered the woman unconscious after a violent outburst, which he said in a letter he was unable to explain.

“I’ve never hit a female in my life, and I can’t explain why this happened,” Rydell wrote to The Daily Sentinel through a friend.

Two of Rydell’s friends, Bob Grafe and Lonnie Mayhugh, said they began fearing for him because of his prolonged pretrial incarceration. Any conviction will amount to a death sentence because of Rydell’s age, Grafe said.

Although Rydell has remained optimistic in general through much of his incarceration, his outlook appears to have darkened in recent weeks, Grafe said.

Rydell, Mayhugh, Grafe and Steve Grant were part of a regular poker game in recent years, and although Rydell would have a beer during those games, he had never been drunk, his poker partners said.

The Bill Rydell they knew is not the same one who stands accused of such violence, they said.

Rydell hasn’t challenged the $500,000 bond, an option that always has been available to him, Hand said.

Still, it appeared to his friends that Rydell has been handled differently than others who have had lesser bonds.

“I’m just confused,” Grant said. “While I don’t condone what he did, it certainly seems to me that he’s paying a heavier price than others in a similar situation.”

There’s a lesson in Rydell’s 20-month incarceration, Grant said.

“It’s tragic that something like this could happen to somebody. Everybody I’ve ever met who was in jail was drunk or high or hung over when they did something that landed them in jail,” Grant said. “Including Bill.”


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