A man who hit an 11-year-old girl in the face with a hammer during a home invasion in southeast Colorado Springs appears too disturbed to be punished for his crimes, his attorney said in requesting a mental health evaluation.
A judge agreed to postpone sentencing Wednesday for Elliot Salther, 23, pending a defense motion for a competency evaluation.
The issue of mental competency involves whether defendants are capable of understanding the case against them and assisting in their defense.
Salther, a repeat felon, has been “hearing voices” in the lead-up to learning his punishment — part of the fallout from constant harassment he’s suffered at the El Paso County jail since pleading guilty in October and agreeing to take the stand against his accomplices, said lawyer Steven Rodemer.
The deal netted a reduced sentencing range of 25 to 35 years in prison, but left him vulnerable in the city’s jail, his attorney said.
Salther has been assaulted three times since agreeing to cooperate, resulting in stitches in his head and on his ear and adding “stress” and “pressure” that may have led to a mental break, Rodemer said. A jail spokeswoman wasn’t immediately available to comment.
The judge set a June 26 hearing to discuss next steps. If he orders a competency evaluation, as expected, the sentencing would likely be held in abeyance for at least two months.
The home invasion was at 5 p.m. April 4 on Wyatt Street, just east of Hancock Expressway and South Academy. During his testimony at the May trial of Jerenzo Kyles, Salther admitted that he struck a young girl in the face with a hammer, breaking her orbital socket. Prosecutors said he also fired a gun during their getaway, twice missing a child inside a car.
Kyles, 24, was convicted of a slate of crimes, including aggravated robbery and kidnapping for holding an 8-year-old boy at gunpoint and threatening to shoot in demanding money and drugs.
While fleeing afterward, Kyles shot at a good Samaritan who confronted the men, leading to a conviction for attempted murder. Salther used the same gun to fire additional shots at the Samaritan’s car, endangering the child.
Kyles faces decades behind bars when he is sentenced July 17, authorities say, though his conviction could be tangled by claims Salther, a key witness, isn’t mentally competent.
A third man, Keotis Reed, 26, pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony theft. He is set to be sentenced Aug. 7.
Salther is poised to join a growing list of prominent El Paso County defendants whose cases are held up while they receive mental health evaluations or treatment. Those defendants include admitted Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Dear, accused of killing three and wounding nine on Nov. 27, 2015. Dear’s case has been in limbo since 2016 while he remains at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.
Demand for state psychiatric services has left many inmates languishing in jails for lack of available beds at the Pueblo hospital.