Lesyshen takes insanity defense in son’s shooting
February 20, 2014
Denver — The Routt County woman accused of shooting and killing her 9-year-old son pleaded not guilty, by reason of insanity, during her arraignment Thursday in Denver.
An official trial date for Lisa Lesyshen was not set during the hearing, but those involved cleared three weeks on their calendars beginning Sept. 29 for a trial that is expected to last 15 days.
With the insanity plea, Lesyshen now will undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether she was insane when the shooting took place.
In a press release, the Routt County District Attorney's office stated the evaluation will determine whether Lesyshen "suffered from a mental defect that rendered her either incapable of distinguishing right from wrong or incapable of acting with the requisite culpable mental state."
If a jury finds Lesyshen not guilty by reason of insanity, she likely would be sentenced to confinement at a mental health hospital. If she is found guilty, Lesyshen could be sentenced to life in prison.
Lesyshen's attorney, public defender Scott Troxell, said it could be May before the evaluation is completed. Once the report is received, the case officially will be set for trial. It is not known where the trial will be held.
The arraignment was delayed Thursday because of malfunctioning locks at the Denver County Jail infirmary. Lesyshen is being held there because the Routt County Jail cannot care for her. Lesyshen was paralyzed after she reportedly shot herself after the May 29 shooting of her son, Asher Lesyshen-Kirlan.
Immediately after entering the courtroom, Lesyshen looked at her former husband, Michael Kirlan, who now lives in Denver and attended the arraignment. After the shooting, Kirlan told authorities he awoke during the early morning hours at the couple's Stagecoach home to the sound of gunshots.
Lesyshen has been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. The charges note that the incident was related to domestic violence. Routt County District Attorney Brett Barkey has chosen not to pursue the death penalty.
If the trial does proceed with an insanity defense, prosecutors have several pieces of evidence to show the shooting was premeditated.
Lesyshen and Kirlan were separating but still living together at the time of the shooting.
According to court records, Kirlan told Lesyshen on May 27 that he was in a relationship with another woman. That same day, Lesyshen bought a Smith & Wesson .22-caliber revolver from a Steamboat pawn shop and then bought bullets the next day.
According to an arrest warrant, investigators found a note on Asher's nightstand. It was addressed to Kirlan.
"Remember you are responsible for what has happened here, and you are the person that caused it," the note read, according to the warrant.
Steamboat Springs attorney Charles Feldmann — who is representing Kirlan as a victim's advocate — said he was not surprised by the insanity plea.
"I don't think the defense in the case had a whole lot of options," Feldmann said.
Also during Thursday's hearing, 14th Judicial District Chief Judge Michael O'Hara took up a request from Lesyshen for a different wheelchair.
Troxell said Lesyshen told him she has fallen out of the wheelchair twice, and the wheelchair is necessary for a paraplegic like Lesyshen.
"The bottom line is this is not medically necessary," Barkey said.
O'Hara denied the request, saying it was a slippery slope for a judge to order certain accommodations for people in custody.
"In my view, this is something the court should continue to monitor," O'Hara said.
Kirlan, who has communicated with Lesyshen while she is in custody, reacted to O'Hara's decision by shaking his head.
Feldmann said Kirlan is "wrestling with conflict" as the woman he once loved stands trial for murdering their only child.
"There is definitely compassion there," Feldmann said.