A judge has ordered further prosecution in a felony case against a Bellevue man accused of threatening his ex-wife's boyfriend earlier this month with a loaded 12-gauge shotgun.
Following a preliminary hearing late Tuesday afternoon in Blaine County Magistrate Court, Judge Jason Walker determined that probable cause existed in the case against former Blaine County Road and Bridge employee Michael Shipp and ordered that the case be elevated to 5th District Court.
Shipp, 42, has been charged with aggravated assault for allegedly threatening 51-year-old Bradford Dredge, an Idaho Department of Fish and Game employee, with the gun on the evening of Jan. 2 at Dredge's home at the Hayspur Fish Hatchery, about six miles west of Timmerman Junction in southern Blaine County. Shipp was also charged with misdemeanor DUI.
Shipp told the Idaho Mountain Express following Tuesday's court hearing that he is no longer employed by Blaine County. Shipp, who had worked for Road and Bridge for nine years, was suspended with pay on Jan. 5 and instructed to attend an employment hearing on Jan. 7.
He said he didn't attend the hearing on the advice of his attorney and was therefore fired. Shipp said he is uncertain what he'll do now regarding employment.
"I can only handle one case at a time," he said.
Shipp has hired Ketchum attorney Cynthia Woolley to represent him on employment matters and Hailey attorney Douglas Nelson to handle the criminal case against him.
Blaine County Commission Chair Larry Schoen confirmed Wednesday that Shipp's employment has been terminated. Schoen declined to offer specifics but said that "the reason relates to issues surrounding how he got himself in trouble in the first place and what it means to be a Road and Bridge employee."
The alleged shotgun incident is the second time that Shipp has been charged with a felony in Blaine County within the past year.
He was charged with felony aggravated DUI last summer following an early-morning accident July 10 on Muldoon Canyon Road east of Bellevue. Shipp's daughter, Katherine E. Shankland, then 23, was severely injured in the single-vehicle crash.
According to a Blaine County Sheriff's Office report, Shipp, Shankland and two other people involved in the accident caught a ride to Shipp's home in Bellevue and authorities weren't notified until later that morning when someone called for an ambulance. The police report states that Shankland was "bleeding severely" from a skull laceration. She was rushed by ambulance to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and later flown by emergency helicopter to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise.
The aggravated DUI charge was dismissed against Shipp in September on a motion filed by the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. According to court records, the prosecutor's office requested the dismissal because the "victim had been uncooperative" and because authorities couldn't establish whether Shipp became intoxicated before or after the accident.
Dredge, the alleged victim in the shotgun incident, testified at Tuesday's preliminary hearing that he has been dating Shipp's ex-wife for about a year and that the woman now lives with him.
Dredge said that around 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 2 he heard a vehicle near the end of his sidewalk and went outside with a flashlight to investigate. When he shined his light on the vehicle, it started backing toward him. Dredge said he didn't yet know who was driving but was standing toward the back of the vehicle when he saw what appeared to be a shotgun barrel protruding from the opened passenger side window.
"I said, 'Mike, you son-of-a-bitch,' and pushed the gun away and walked back toward my house."
Dredge testified that he then called 911 and Shipp drove away.
Sheriff's Patrol Sgt. Jamie Shaw testified that police arrived about 10 minutes later and found Shipp's vehicle stuck in a snow drift about 100 yards from the Hayspur Lane intersection with U.S. Highway 20. He said Shipp failed field sobriety tests and was arrested and that a loaded 12-gauge shotgun was later found hidden in the back of Shipp's pickup.
Shipp has denied that he threatened Dredge.
In interviews with the Express last week, both men acknowledged that there has been an ongoing feud between the two of them for about the past year. Both men accused the other of making harassing telephone calls and said they have had face-to-face confrontations at local bars.
"I was playing pool and he came over and got in my face and I shoved him," Dredge said. "He's a constant pain in my side. I should have punched him in the face."
Shipp said the dispute escalated last summer after Dredge was charged with a felony for allegedly punching Shipp's ex-wife in the face.
According to a Hailey police report, Dredge and the woman got into an altercation near the Hailey Hotel around midnight on July 16. Dredge was charged the following day with "domestic violence with traumatic injury" for allegedly punching the woman. According to the police report, she suffered "multiple fractures in her face."
The charge against Dredge was dismissed in August. Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas told the Express that the charge was dropped because Shipp's ex-wife "recanted her story on how the injuries occurred and refused to testify."
"I didn't intentionally hurt her that night," Dredge said. "I was defending myself. She punched me twice in the face and I was just pushing her away from me. As far as I'm concerned, it will never happen again. It's nothing I'm proud of.
"What happened between me and her doesn't really affect Mike," Dredge said. "They're divorced—he needs to move on with his life."
Shipp said he was affected by the incident because his ex-wife called him from the hospital.
"I let her stay on my couch for about a month because she had no place to go," Shipp said. "And then she went in and had the charges dropped. I don't know if she was afraid of him or not."
Terry Smith: email@example.com