Updated: October 19, 2013 at 7:18 am
A Colorado Springs man will be tried for first-degree murder in the apparent vigilante slaying of a man accused by a child of sexually assaulting her, a judge ruled Friday.
Otto Pobanz III would face life behind bars if convicted in the June 24 death of William "Billy" Walsh, a 27-year-old who was beaten by an intruder in his apartment, placed shackled into a car and shot to death in a weed-strewn lot on the city's east side.
The attack occurred one day after Walsh's 6-year-old daughter reported that he had molested her, and a police investigation into the alleged abuse was under way, authorities disclosed Friday at a daylong preliminary hearing for Pobanz.
Pobanz, also 27, was scheduled to return to court to be arraigned on Dec. 9, at which time a trial will be scheduled.
Also bound over for trial on first-degree murder charges at the hearing Friday was Colton Riley Fuentes, a 17-year-old accused of being present when Walsh was slain. The Gazette generally identifies juvenile suspects only if they are charged with serious crimes.
Fuentes, who was 16 at the time of the killing, is at least the third juvenile in El Paso County being prosecuted as an adult for murder.
According to testimony by Colorado Springs police detective John Koch, Walsh's daughter reported that she and her father had "rubbed private parts" over the previous weekend while he was watching her at an apartment Walsh shared with his mother.
After reporting the abuse to her mother on June 23, the girl was taken to Memorial Hospital for a forensic examination and a report was made to Colorado Springs police, who launched an immediate investigation, Koch said.
That probe was cut short when a passerby found Walsh's body in a field behind a Walgreen's in the 1900 block of East Murray Boulevard -- his hands cuffed, his legs shackled and a pillow case drawn over his head.
An autopsy determined Walsh died of a single gunshot wound in the head, police testified.
Pobanz took full responsibility for the crime while under interrogation by the police, according to portions of the videotaped statement played in court Friday.
During 6 hours of questioning, the defendant told police he had come to look on the 6-year-old as a daughter while dating the girl's mother, who had been estranged from Walsh.
"I stuck up for that little girl," Pobanz said after providing a detailed statement in which he described how he broke into Walsh's apartment through a window and used a revolver and brass knuckles to "beat him from one side of the house to the other."
Pobanz said he didn't intend to shoot Walsh, however, claiming the gun went off as he again pistol-whipped the shackled man.
The defendant previously disavowed knowledge of the killing during a jailhouse interview with The Gazette.
Police were led to Pobanz partly by a tip from the girl's mother, who initially denied knowing who might be responsible.
Pressed by detectives, the woman eventually changed her story, admitting that she had called Pobanz and asked him to confront Walsh, according to detective Derek Graham.
"She wanted him to scare Billy the way Billy had scared (the girl)," Graham said. The woman said she did not know Pobanz would resort to violence, and she hasn't been charged with a crime. Her name is being withheld to protect the identity of her daughter.
Fuentes is accused of accompanying Pobanz to Walsh's apartment, and prosecutors say he participated in the abduction. Although he was bound over on one count of first-degree murder, 4th Judicial District Court Judge Thomas Kennedy tossed another murder count at the conclusion of the hearing, ruling that prosecutors had failed to present evidence of deliberation.
Kennedy also set a $75,000 bond for Fuentes, ruling that prosecutors fell short of establishing that "probability is great" that he will be convicted at trial.
Walsh's murder cut short the investigation into his daughter's alleged abuse, which included a forensic interview of the girl conducted on the morning before Walsh's body was discovered.
During cross-examination of a police detective, Pobanz's public defender, Eydie Elkins, asked about forensic testing that she said "confirmed sexual contact," but a detective responded that he wasn't privy to the test results.
The child's mother said after the hearing that the forensic testing documented a physical irregularity that she said supported her daughter's allegations.
The lead prosecutor, Deborah Pearson, declined to comment on the forensic testing but noted the girl was interviewed by police the morning before Walsh's body was discovered.
"It was still under investigation," Pearson said. "(The case) would have been packaged together and sent over to our office for consideration of charges."
Family members previously described Walsh as a devoted father, and he denied touching the girl when confronted, according to testimony.