Preliminary set in Algiers case
Attorney Generalís Office may assist
county with other litigation
By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer
A Wyoming man, the subject of an ongoing
investigation into the alleged aggravated battery of a Ketchum man who died
later May 16 in a police standoff near River Run Lodge, is scheduled for a
preliminary hearing Tuesday, June 29, in Fifth District Court in Hailey.
The hearing for Daniel Hunt, 44,
previously was postponed twice since it was originally scheduled May 26, but
Idaho Deputy Attorney General Jay Rosenthal, who took over the case from Blaine
County Prosecutor Jim Thomas, said this week he is "quite sure the hearing will
go ahead as scheduled."
Thomas said the case was turned over to
the Idaho Attorney Generalís Office last month due to a conflict of interest for
his office involving the related police shooting, which is under investigation
by a task force of Southern Idaho law enforcement officers.
Blaine County Coroner Russ Mikel is
carrying out a mandatory investigation into the cause of death of Ketchum
resident Tom Algiers, who was the victim of the aggravated battery and the
All three investigations are related to
the same series of events that involve the aggravated battery charge against
Hunt. Hunt told police he was attacked by Algiers, who was later slain by police
in an early morning standoff at a campsite south of River Run Lodge, along the
Big Wood River west of Ketchum.
Algiers, 46, was killed shortly before 3
a.m. after police responded to a 911 call made by Hunt from the River Run Lodge
at about 2 a.m. Hunt told police he allegedly had been attacked by Algiers and
that he had defended himself with a machete. Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling
said when Algiers was found in the dense woods along the Big Wood River, he
refused to drop a knife he was carrying. Femling said Algiers cornered two
county deputies, and that Deputy Curtis Miller shot Algiers twice.
Femling said he is still awaiting the
results of the police shooting investigation from the Magic Valley Critical
Incident Task Force, but he said a report might be submitted this week.
Rosenthal said he is also awaiting the
report as it relates to his investigation, but that it was not entirely
necessary for the preliminary hearing to go forward.
"I would like to get as much of the (task
force) report as I can get before the hearing," he said. "The (task force) will
determine what happened with the two officers at the time of the shooting."
Mikel, who said he received Algiersí
autopsy report over the weekend, is also waiting on the task force report for
the purposes of his investigation into the cause of death.
After he has reviewed the report, he will
decide whether or not to hold a coronerís inquest, he said. For a coronerís
inquest, a jury of citizens would be empanelled by Mikel to hear the evidence in
the case and determine the cause of Algiersí death.
Hunt was arrested Wednesday, May 19, by
Ketchum police officers on felony aggravated battery charges. He had been free
since the May 16 incident. Hunt had been living in a campsite near the Big Wood
River for several weeks prior to the incident, said Thomas at Huntís
Hunt is incarcerated at the Blaine County
Jail in lieu of posting a $50,000 bond. He is charged with one count of
aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Rosenthal said his office might be asked
to take over prosecution of the police officers in the event any charges are
filed resulting from the investigation.
Idaho code protects police officers in the
event of a shooting death if it is proven that the use of deadly force is
Femling said the task force investigation
would help determine if the Blaine County deputies were "following the color of
the law to do what they did."
Rosenthal appeared in Hailey this week
where he is also investigating two separate child sex abuse cases that occurred
in the county.
"The prosecutorís office is busy with the
Johnson and Santistevan cases," he said.
Bellevue resident David Santistevan, 46,
has been charged with two counts of attempted murder related to the shootings of
two Bellevue teenagers during an argument in an alley Mar. 29.
Sarah Johnson, who was 16 at the time of
her arrest, is accused of shooting her parents, Alan and Diane Johnson, at the
familyís Bellevue home during the early morning hours of Sept. 2, 2003.
Rosenthal said he expects to be coming
regularly to Blaine County to help with "the press of business."
Although Femling said May 17 he had
noticed three machete blows to Algiersí head as his body was being packaged for
the morgue, there were actually 14 head wounds, according to initial reports
from the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Algiers at the Ada
County Coronerís office in Boise.
Mikel said the machete wounds "could have
been severe enough to have proven fatal." He has sent a copy of the autopsy to
Algiersí family at their request, with an advisory that due to the graphic
nature of the report it be read under the supervision of a physician.
Blaine County Deputy Dale Stocking, who
witnessed the shooting, helped investigators from the Magic Valley Critical
Incident Task Force reconstruct how Algiers was shot. He is back on duty.
Miller did return to duty earlier this
month, Femling said, but due to a post traumatic stress episode his is currently
undergoing psychiatric treatment.
"He is doing much better," Femling said.
Ketchum police, including Assistant Chief
Mike McNeil, were also present to assist with the review of the crime scene.
Color-coded markers stuck in the ground at the scene of the shooting told a
story of the events leading to Algiersí death.