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Competency hearing scheduled for Cortez murder suspect

Defense attorney challenges latest mental health evaluation
Jeremiah Damron during his arrest in July 2017.

In a hearing Friday, the defense attorney for Cortez murder suspect Jeremiah Damron announced plans to challenge the findings of two mental health evaluations declaring Damron competent to proceed.

Damron was arrested July 20 after his mother’s body was found apparently beaten and burned to death in his backyard. In October, he was ruled mentally incompetent to participate in his defense, but since then, two mental health evaluations through the Colorado Department of Human Services have declared him competent. Defense attorney John Moran said Friday he plans to challenge the latest evaluation, which was delivered to the court June 19, in a hearing in August.

A preliminary examination after Damron’s arrest showed he had severe mental health issues, which his defense has argued would prevent him from effectively participating in court proceedings. He was sent to the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo this year for treatment, and an evaluation completed in March said he could proceed. Moran requested a second evaluation, which was completed by Durango psychologist John Ragsdale in June. District Attorney and prosecutor Will Furse said it also showed Damron to be competent.

Furse said both mental health evaluations are sealed from the public.

District Judge Todd Plewe said it will be up to Furse and his office to prove Damron’s competency. Witnesses including Ragsdale and Susan Coykendall, who completed the first evaluation, will be allowed to appear, via video conference call if necessary.

Competency hearings typically are required to be held within 35 days of a request or the delivery of an evaluation, but Damron and Moran agreed to waive that requirement to accommodate lawyers’ schedules.

Damron faces a charge of first-degree murder, which carries a minimum sentence of life in prison and a maximum sentence of death. His competency hearing will be held in Montezuma County District Court on Aug. 1 at 9 a.m.


JULY 20, 2017:

The body of Damron’s mother, 62-year-old Kristie Damron, is found apparently beaten and burned to death in his backyard early in the morning. Cortez police and sheriff’s deputies arrest Damron on North Sligo Street at 10:25 a.m.

JULY 24, 2017:

Damron appears in Montezuma County District Court for an advisement hearing. His bail is set at $500,000, and he is ordered to undergo a mental competency evaluation through the Colorado Department of Human Services.

JULY 28, 2017:

Damron is charged with first-degree murder. His mental competency hearing is scheduled for Sept. 6, and his preliminary hearing for Sept. 22.

SEPT. 6, 2017:

Damron’s hearings are delayed after CDHS says the results of his evaluation will not be available until October.

OCT. 17, 2017:

Damron is ruled mentally incompetent to participate in his defense. District Judge Todd Plewe orders him to undergo treatment at the CDHS Institute in Pueblo.

JAN. 16, 2018:

CDHS requests a delay in Damron’s treatment, and his hearing is postponed to April 3. Plewe turns down a request to reduce bail.

MARCH 2, 2018:

Damron is deemed competent to proceed by CDHS Institute, according to court records.

APRIL 17, 2018:

Plewe grants a defense request for a second assessment.

JUNE 19, 2018:

A second evaluation is delivered to the court, again declaring Damron competent to proceed.

JUNE 22, 2018:

Defense attorney John Moran announces he plans to challenge the mental health evaluations. Damron’s next competency hearing is scheduled for Aug. 1.

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