July 11, 2010 in City

Crossbow slaying suspect’s competency hearing delayed

By The Spokesman-Review

Accused crossbow killer Cole K. Strandberg appeared in court Friday, but his attorney asked for more time before holding a hearing to determine his competency to stand trial for aggravated first-degree murder.

Strandberg’s attorney, Chris Bugbee, asked Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen to delay the Aug. 2 hearing because of a billing dispute with a Boise neuropsychologist who is expected to testify for the defense.

Bugbee explained that Dr. Craig Beaver was hired by a previous attorney to evaluate Strandberg at a time when prosecutors were considering the death penalty as a potential sentence. But Beaver’s bill exceeded the amount authorized by the court and Bugbee said Beaver might not return for a new evaluation until the payment issue is settled.

“Until he gets paid, he’s refusing to continue? Is Dr. Beaver holding us hostage?” Eitzen asked Bugbee.

“I wouldn’t say he’s refusing. He’s reluctant,” Bugbee said. “I may be able to get him to agree to come back.”

Strandberg, 24, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, is charged with sexually assaulting and using a crossbow to kill 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron on Jan. 7, 2008.

Earlier this year, Eitzen ruled that Strandberg was not mentally competent to stand trial. But his condition has improved through medication, and the judge asked for a new competency evaluation.

The prosecution withdrew its intent to seek the death penalty on Oct. 9, after Beaver’s initial evaluation of Strandberg. Bugbee said he wants Beaver to provide a new evaluation.

Bugbee said he’s optimistic he can resolve the issue in about three weeks and Eitzen set the hearing for Sept. 7.

Strandberg was one of the featured inmates earlier this year in a Discovery Channel episode of “Behind Bars,” which included a video clip showing a corrections deputy, Dan Leonetti, suffering a fractured neck during an attempt to extract Strandberg from his cell. On Friday, five jailers escorted Strandberg to and from court.

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