Hillbolt takes stand at trial

Defendant says shooting was self-defense

Gary E. Salazar

— A 34-year-old Yampa man on trial for attempted murder testified Wednesday he had no choice but to shoot Jared Williams.

Warren Dean Hillbolt III took the stand in his own defense and said he shot the 24-year-old Williams in self-defense during a dispute last December at Hillbolt’s trailer. Williams, who was hit in the shoulder, survived the shooting.

“I wanted to keep him from attacking me,” Hillbolt said. “I didn’t want to hurt him, but it was inevitable.”

Hillbolt was the last witness to testify about the Dec. 2 shooting. He is on trial for attempted first-degree murder and violent crime with the use of a deadly weapon. Fourteenth Judicial District Judge Richard P. Doucette is presiding over the trial.

The jury trial, which started Monday, will resume at 10 a.m. today. Assistant District Attorney David Waite and Hillbolt’s court-appointed attorney, Ron Smith, will each have 45 minutes for final arguments.

The 12-member jury, which consists of seven women and five men, are expected to begin deliberations before noon.

Jurors will have the task of determining who is telling the truth Williams or Hillbolt, both of whom admitted they were intoxicated when the incident occurred.

Waite has argued that Hillbolt threatened to shoot Williams, carried out the threat and then made statements to police that he intended to shoot the man in the heart.

But Smith said Williams who outweighs the 5-foot-9-inch, 145-pound Hillbolt by more than 50 pounds repeatedly assaulted his client prior to the shooting. Hillbolt, Smith said, had no choice but to defend himself when he thought Williams was going to assault him again.

On the day of the shooting, Hillbolt and Williams had been snowboarding with two other men at the Steamboat Ski Area. Afterward, the men went to a bar, where they drank heavily.

Hillbolt testified he was first attacked by Williams as he was sitting in his roommate’s car parked outside a market near the ski mountain.

“He grabbed me, drug me out of the car and slammed me to the ground with him on top of me,” Hillbolt said. “I had to push him away from me.”

The three men then got into the car and proceeded to Hillbolt’s trailer, 116400 Colorado 131.

On the drive to the home, Hillbolt, who sat in the front passenger seat, said he was repeatedly harassed by Williams, who was sitting directly behind him in the backseat.

Hillbolt testified Williams repeatedly kept pushing his head forward and spraying beer on him.

“We argued the whole way to the trailer,” Hillbolt said. “I told him to stop. Quit messing with me. I’m not in the mood.”

Once at the trailer, the men got into a second fight on the trailer’s porch.

“This was more violent than the first time,” he said.

The two men exchanged punches before Hillbolt was able to get into the trailer.

“I told him to leave, and he was not welcome in my trailer,” he said. “As soon as I went in the trailer, I saw a rifle in the corner. I picked up the rifle. I checked and there was a clip in it.”

As Hillbolt was turning around, Williams entered the trailer. Hillbolt testified he warned Williams not to come near him or he would shoot him.

“He came at me,” Hillbolt said. “I brought the rifle up and shot him in the shoulder.”

Hillbolt testified he put the rifle down and helped Williams by taking off the man’s bloody shirt and applying pressure to the wound.

Hillbolt was later taken into custody by Routt County Sheriff’s deputies.

On cross-examination, Waite said Hillbolt forgot to mention in his testimony that he made threats toward Williams in the car.

During Waite’s questioning, Hillbolt admitted that while the men were in the car, he told Williams he was going to shoot him.

Waite also questioned why the version of events he gave Wednesday were different than the version he gave a psychologist earlier this year. During the two days Waite had to present his case, he portrayed Hillbolt as a man with a history of violence and substance abuse.

Before Hillbolt took the stand, an expert witness for the defense testified Hillbolt was too intoxicated to plan the shooting and shot Williams in self-defense.

“He did not have the cognitive ability to plan the shooting,” Dr. Terri Finney said. “In (Hillbolt’s) mind in that point in time shooting (Williams) was the last resort to stop the man from attacking him.”

Waite pointed out Finney was paid by the Alternative Legal Defense Council to examine and diagnose Hillbolt. Waite also questioned how Finney could render an opinion when she did not know Hillbolt’s blood-alcohol content on the night in question.

“You don’t know what he was thinking?” Waite asked Finney.

“I don’t think any of us know,” Finney answered.

If Hillbolt is convicted of the two charges, he faces between 16 and 48 years in prison.

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