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The trial of the man accused of killing three people at a Thornton Walmart is on hold until April while he is evaluated for mental competency at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo.
Hearings for Scott Ostrem were scheduled to continue Feb. 5, but Judge Ted. C. Tow decide Jan. 31 put them on hold until Ostrem could be evaluated and a report on his mental state could be sent to Adams County officials.
The court is scheduled to review that report at a new hearing, 8:30 a.m. April 2.
Ostrem is suspected of walking into the Walmart at 9900 Grant St. just after 6 p.m. Nov. 1, calmly taking a handgun out of his pocket and opening fire. Three people were killed in the shooting: 66-year-old Carlos Moreno, of Thornton, 26-year-old Victor Vasquez of Denver, and Pamela Marques, 52, of Denver.
Then, according to police, Ostrem walked back out of the store, got into his car and drove away.
At the Jan. 31 hearing, Ostrem's public defender, Emily Fleischman, said that things Ostrem told her client-to-attorney made her question his competency to stand trial. Ostrem filed a motion earlier to get a new attorney that Tow turned down and made a new motion Jan. 31 to dispense with the public defenders and act as his own attorney.
Tow briefly cleared the courtroom to let Fleischmann discuss what Ostrem had said. When he reopened the hearing, he said he understood her concerns.
"It is quite clear to me, based on the filings that Mr. Ostrem has filed, that he does not understand what the role of defense counsel is," Tow said. "Based on the additional comments from the private conversation when I closed the courtroom, it is clear he does not understand other aspects of the process as well. The question is whether that misunderstanding is the result of a mental disability."
Ostrem faces two different kinds murder charges for each victim — a charge of murder after deliberation and a charge of murder with extreme indifference. Each carries an ultimate penalty of death.
He also faces 35 charges of attempted murder with extreme indifference, a class 2 felony. Each count carries a mandatory sentence of up to 22 years. The final count calls for a mandatory sentence for violent crimes that could boost the attempted murder sentences up to 48 years each.
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