Deadly hatchet attack in Rangely detailed at hearing
MEEKER — A law enforcement officer testified Monday that it took probably less than a minute for Jerry Snider Jr. to head upstairs at his father’s Rangely home last July, grab a hatchet, go back downstairs and start delivering fatal blows against Jerry Snider Sr.
A judge will decide in coming days whether that was enough time to help show the kind of deliberation necessary to warrant trying Snider on a first-degree murder charge. Judge Gail Nichols also tentatively scheduled a three-week jury trial to begin July 26.
Snider is accused of killing his father over the Fourth of July weekend. A preliminary hearing Monday included testimony alleging that Snider struck his father eight times in the scalp with a hatchet and once near the ear.
Brooks Bennett, a Colorado Bureau of Investigations agent, said Snider told an investigator that his father was in a recliner when he delivered a first blow from the side. After Snider pulled him to the floor, his father made noises, so Snider “continued to hit his father in the head so that he would not suffer,” Bennett said Snider told the investigator.
Bennett said there were no signs of a struggle. Investigators found a bloody hatchet in a bedroom of the home, he said.
First-degree murder is punishable by life in prison or the death penalty. Ninth Judicial District Attorney Martin Beeson has decided not to seek capital punishment in the case.
Snider has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Snider took his father’s wallet and truck and made purchases with his father’s debit card at a gas station and grocery store later July 3 in the Denver area before abandoning the vehicle near Georgetown, Bennett said. He then was picked up by a motorist who took him to the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Department after Snider said he was wanted in connection with a murder, Bennett testified. He said Snider provided details about the killing to a Clear Creek sheriff’s investigator on July 5.
Public defender Tina Fang told Nichols the time Snider needed to grab the ax, as estimated by Bennett, “is not sufficient to find deliberation for first-degree murder.”
Beeson disagreed and noted Bennett’s testimony that Jerry Snider Jr.‘s brother had told an investigator that Snider previously had talked about planning something that would make the two brothers a lot of money but also make people mad at him.
Bennett said Jerry Snider Sr. had two life insurance policies naming the brothers as beneficiaries.
Bennett also testified that family members said the father had talked about being “done helping” his son and that Snider Jr. had said he was looking to get weapons and “get even with anybody who had wronged him.”
During cross-examination, Bennett said a family member told investigators the elder Snider had taken his son to the hospital July 2 after his son “started to see things,” and that the father indicated “they had been through this before.”
The Clear Creek Sheriff’s Department sent Snider Jr. to a psychiatric hospital a few days after his arrest.
Bennett also testified that Snider had been worried about protecting himself from people he thought were chasing him.
Bennett said Snider had been homeless for parts of 10 years.