Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen ruled today that Cole K. Strandberg is too dangerous to leave unshackled during a hearing to determine if he should be civilly committed or stand trial for aggravated first-degree murder.
Defense attorney Chris Bugbee is arguing at today’s hearing that Strandberg should be found innocent by reason of insanity, and Eitzen will determine whether the murder trial is even necessary.
The judge did note that Bugbee is in the odd position of arguing his client is not a risk and should be left unshackled in court, but that Strandberg also is criminally insane.
Strandberg is accused of murdering Jennifer Bergeron, a 22-year-old woman, with a crossbow.
The case began Jan. 7, 2008, when Strandberg walked into Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center about 7 a.m. and told employees, “I have a dead body. It’s a girl. I will probably go to prison,” according to court documents.
Police found Bergeron’s body at Strandberg’s apartment, 1304 S. Chestnut St. Investigators described the scene as “extremely brutal.”
Today, Sgt. Thomas Hill, who supervises transports for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, testified about how Strandberg punched one deputy in the head and how another deputy suffered a broken bone in his neck during a previous effort to get Strandberg to court.
“He is the most violent offender I have personally dealt with in my 20 years,” Hill said at the hearing.
Strandberg was highlighted in a Discovery Channel show in 2009 which showed footage of the September 2008 incident cited by Hill in which cell extraction team member Dan Leonetti suffered the neck injury in a violent struggle with Strandberg.
Bugbee asked several witnesses, including Hill, whether Strandberg has been violent since he began taking medication in February 2010. All witnesses indicated that he had not been violent.
Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla asked Dr. Craig Beaver, a Boise neuropsychologist, if part of Strandberg’s illness is that he believes he is part of a mystical group and does what they command. Beaver replied that is true.
Cipolla then asked Beaver if Strandberg were to get a command while at trial, would Strandberg be a danger?
Beaver answered, “He could be.”
Judge Eitzen then said, “It seems to me Mr. Strandberg represents a very significant risk of harm to the public and the people who might be in the courtroom.”
She said she wants the defendant restrained and attached to bolts on the table so that he is secure, but the judge also said the restraints must be hidden from a jury to keep from tainting Strandberg’s right to a fair trial, if the case gets that far.