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Mental evaluation ordered for man in murder case


By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

The scheduled arraignment Friday of the man who is charged with shooting and killing a camper last August north of Durango remains up in the air, pending a mental evaluation.

Skirmishing began when public defenders John Moran and Justin Bogan said they potentially could offer an insanity defense for Brenden Dow Ashburn.

Bogan said the defense has not received the firearm used to kill David Alan Jones, a 26-year-old Fort Lewis College student who was camping with a friend at Henderson Lake on Missionary Ridge Road in the San Juan National Forest about 20 miles north of Durango.

An examination of the firearm by defense experts could possibly show a connection between Ashburn’s mental state and his ability to operate the weapon, Bogan said.

Declaring too early what the defense’s tactics will be could hurt the defense’s case, Bogan said.

District Attorney Todd Risberg and 6th Judicial District Judge Jeffrey Wilson challenged the defense on legal and procedural issues. But in the end, it was agreed that Wilson will order that Ashburn be examined by mental-health professionals.

No dates were set. A gag order has been placed on the case, Risberg said.

Ashburn has been held without bail in La Plata County jail since he was arrested at the scene of the shooting. Sheriff’s investigator Kevin Brown said Jones and a friend, Eric Berry, were sitting around a campfire drinking beer and whiskey and smoking marijuana when Ashburn, 37, who was camping alone nearby, joined them.

Jones and Berry had helped Ashburn jump-start his vehicle earlier in the day.

Ashburn produced a handgun, showed it to the two men and fired a shot in the air, Brown’s affidavit said. He threatened to shoot the pair and, about 15 minutes later shot Jones, who was bent over poking the fire.

Berry fled, leaving Ashburn seated on the cooler. A former U.S. Marine, David Pribble, who was camped nearby with his family, held Ashburn at gunpoint and tied him to an aspen, the affidavit said.

A breath test conducted nine hours after the shooting showed that Ashburn had a blood-alcohol level of 0.171, more than twice the state’s legal driving limit of 0.08.


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