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Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Preliminary set in Algiers case

Attorney Generalís Office may assist county with other litigation

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 shooting.

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 arraignment.

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 justified.

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.


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