Jury begins deliberating in Westminster road-rage shooting spree trial
The man who killed a 13-year-old boy and wounded three others in a road-rage shooting spree in Westminster five years ago suffered from severe mental health problems for two decades before the attack, including hallucinations, suicidal and homicidal impulses, and breaks from reality, his defense attorney said Wednesday during closing arguments of his two-week jury trial.
Jeremy Webster, 28, is accused of killing 13-year-old Vaughn Bigelow Jr. and shooting the boy’s mother and brother during the June 14, 2018, attack in the parking lot of a dentist’s office at West 80th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard. Webster pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and related counts.
Webster claimed to have had an out-of-body experience during the killing. Defense attorney Rachel Oliver told jurors Wednesday that Webster did not remember the attack until police investigators began telling him details about what happened, at which point it came back to him in bits and pieces, “like a nightmare.”
“He is not in his body,” she told the jury. “He is not even in his emotions. He is completely detached from himself, from this world, from everything around him. He has no present awareness of what is going on.”
Prosecutors said during closing statements that Webster’s long-term mental health struggles do not mean he was legally insane during the attack.
“Their own expert tells you that he was suffering from no psychotic episode,” Assistant District Attorney Jess Redman said. “While he talks about being the devil, he doesn’t believe he’s in some alternate universe. You heard (about) these disorganized thoughts, crazy notions of coins in fountains… that’s not June 14, 2018. June 14, 2018, is road rage.”
Webster is accused of following Meghan Bigelow and her three children to the dentist’s office after becoming enraged when she merged in front of him on Sheridan Boulevard. After the two adults shouted at each other in the dentist parking lot, Webster pulled a handgun and shot Meghan Bigelow and two of her sons, 8-year-old Asa Bigelow and 13-year-old Vaughn Jr. He then shot a bystander who witnessed the attack. Vaughn Jr. was killed; the other victims were seriously injured but survived.
Jurors began deliberating Wednesday after listening to evidence for two weeks in Adams County District Court. The jury will decide whether Webster was insane during the attack.
If he is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed to a mental health facility for treatment, rather than prison, and could eventually be released if he is later found to be sane. If convicted of first-degree murder, Webster faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.
Oliver told jurors that Webster’s mental health problems began when he was 4 years old and got worse as he grew into adulthood. He experienced hallucinations that ranged from seeing mice and elephants to being chased by people with AK-47s.
In the months before the killing, Webster believed his dog was the reincarnation of the ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra, thought that a nuclear explosion had happened in Colorado Springs and that he was living in an alternate universe, and twice attempted suicide, Oliver said during closing arguments.
Webster heavily used alcohol and marijuana as a way to self-medicate, she said. But in early 2018, Webster started attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and achieved sobriety — aside from a one-day relapse in February 2018, she said. He then sought out mental health care and began taking several new medications.
“He’s improving, in some respects,” Oliver said. “But he also was removing a coping mechanism that he had had for a very long time… and his symptoms weren’t under control at that point.”
She said that Webster was not honest with his mental health providers about his suicidal and homicidal thoughts because he was afraid of being involuntarily hospitalized.
“It’s scary to think that as we walk in the community there are people walking right by us who are struggling to the level that Jeremy Webster was struggling, but it is accurate, it is truthful,” she said. “He was struggling.”
Prosecutors in their closing arguments focused on Webster’s actions during the attack and said he knew what he was doing and was in control of his own actions.
“He pulled the trigger until there were no more bullets,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Prince said. “Intent. Deliberation.”
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