Charges Filed in Homicide Case Suggest Recklessness Rather Than Intent

08/06/14 | By | 54 More

SILVERTON – Silverton resident Michael McFarland has been charged with one count of manslaughter and one count of second degree assault in the death of his wife earlier this summer.

McFarland was initially taken into custody on suspicion of second degree murder, after authorities found Jessica McFarland’s body in the couple’s Silverton home on the morning of June 6.

The defendant was later released on bail, and has since been residing in Rifle, Colo., awaiting further court proceedings. 

McFarland and his attorney made a very brief appearance in San Juan County District Court in Silverton on Thursday, July 31, at which District Attorney Todd Risberg filed charges following a postponement granted by Judge Gregory Lyman in late June, so that the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office could have ample time to complete their investigation into Jessica McFarland’s death.

According to Risberg, the investigation is still ongoing and its full details have not yet been released. An arrest affidavit filed by the CBI in June indicated that the couple had been arguing and throwing bottles at each other on the night of the alleged homicide, and that the victim’s death was likely due to injuries to her neck inflicted by broken glass.

While the charge of second degree murder, under suspicion of which McFarland was initially arrested, implies intent to kill another human being, the charge of manslaughter does not. In Colorado law, manslaughter is considered to be a Class 4 felony that occurs when the death of a person is caused by recklessness rather than intent to kill. Second Degree Assault, also a class 4 felony, is characterized by “recklessly causing serious bodily injury to another by means of a deadly weapon,” according to Colorado statute.

Risberg said he anticipates that the San Juan County District Court will remain the venue for McFarland’s charging and prosecution, rather than shifting the proceedings to Durango, as had previously been discussed. 

“I think it’s in the interest of the community for the public hearings to be conducted in the community in which the events occurred,” Risberg said. 

A Preliminary Hearing Demand date has been set for Aug. 29 at 1:30 p.m., at which McFarland can determine whether he wants to have a preliminary hearing or another procedural hearing. In the event that a preliminary hearing takes place and the counts against McFarland are bound over, an arraignment date would then be set, at which point McFarland would enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

“And the case would move on from there,” Risberg said, adding that he has no idea at this point whether it is eventually headed toward a jury trial.

swright@watchnewspapers.com or Tweet @iamsamwright

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