Updated October 7, 2010 at 9:10 p.m.
Steamboat Springs The charge of attempted first-degree murder against Steamboat Springs man Robert Cash survived a preliminary hearing in Routt County Court on Thursday morning.
The case now will proceed to district court, with a first hearing set for Nov. 2.
Lawyers called several Steamboat Springs Police Department detectives as witnesses during the hearing, and a recording of a hospital-room interview with Rhonda Cash brought Robert Cash to tears. He began sobbing and shaking as the recording played, and Routt County Judge James Garrecht called for a short break when it was finished.
Robert Cash is accused of shooting his wife in the back of the neck at their home on Iris Lane early June 11 before shooting himself in the chest. Both survived, and Rhonda Cash now reportedly is living out of state. She was not in the courtroom for the preliminary hearing and appeared at a recent divorce hearing by telephone.
Routt County Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann argued that in attempted murder cases, the prosecution must prove the intent or deliberation of the defendant, which she said 14th Judicial District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham and Deputy DA Rusty Prindle failed to do.
Prosecutors relied on notes found in the Cash home, including one series that began with “I just lost it.” They also used police Detective Jerry Stabile’s hospital interview with Rhonda Cash and her description of how the couple argued the night before and she kicked him out of the bedroom.
She also said during the interview that her husband checked on her several times after he shot her, asking if she was dead yet. She said she was paralyzed from the shot and held her breath when he was in the room. She said he covered her face with a sheet the final time he was in the room.
Robert Cash reportedly shot himself in the chest when police officers arrived at the home to check on Rhonda Cash. Co-workers called police when she was not at work.
Uhlmann said none of the evidence showed Robert Cash’s mental state before the shooting, only after it happened. There also was no forensic evidence showing how far away he was when he shot her or what angle the shot came from, which Uhlmann said was important because the shooting could have been an accident.
Uhlmann requested that the case be knocked down to a lesser charge.
Prindle said the evidence proved Robert Cash wanted his wife to die because he used a deadly weapon — a small-caliber handgun — and reportedly told her after he shot her that he wanted her dead.
Uhlmann also brought up Robert Cash’s reported mental illness. She had requested that the preliminary hearing be delayed until “additional investigation regarding Mr. Cash’s mental status” could be completed.
Prindle objected to the delay because there were no specific facts in the motion, and Garrecht denied the delay.
Officers and detectives testified that there were prescription pill bottles near where officers found Robert Cash after they entered the home, but no medical witnesses were called to testify about the medicines.
Uhlmann also asked officers about statements Robert Cash made in the hospital weeks after the shooting when he reportedly could not remember what year it was or what year he was born.
Oldham said that the event was after the shooting and would not be applicable to his mental state at the time of the shooting, and she also said that he was heavily medicated in the hospital at the time.
Preliminary hearings are a test to see whether prosecutors have the basic evidence to put the defendant on trial. The judge is required to look at the evidence in the most favorable way for the prosecution during preliminary hearings.
Garrecht took no time in agreeing that the prosecution met the requirements for attempted first-degree murder and sent the case forward. It is scheduled to next go before District Judge Shelley Hill at 1 p.m. Nov. 2.