Murder suspect’s hearing delayed

Competency evaluation still unavailable

A competency hearing for a Cortez woman charged with second-degree murder was postponed Tuesday until June.

At a scheduled hearing on Tuesday, May 6, District Court Judge Todd Plewe said the court received a letter last week from the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, which stated that its competency evaluation on a Cortez woman facing second-degree murder charges would not be available until May 16.

Valerie Espinoza, 38, is charged with second-degree murder for the Sept. 19th stabbing death of 62-year-old Charles Chaves. She has been at the mental health facility in Pueblo since pleading not guilty by reason of insanity before Plewe on Feb. 10.

On Tuesday, Plewe suggested the competency hearing be rescheduled for May 22. Both District Attorney Will Furse and public defender Amy Smith, however, requested a later date in order to properly review the mental health report. A new hearing was set for 11 a.m. on June 10.

All criminal proceedings in the case have been suspended pending the results of the competency evaluation.

During arraignment proceedings in February, Espinoza repeatedly smiled, frowned, scowled, sobbed and even snarled - her emotions changing from moment to moment.

As a result of pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, the defendant waived her right to confidentiality, meaning mental health officials could testify as to anything relayed during her evaluation.

A Montezuma County grand jury indicted Espinoza on second-degree murder charges in October. Records show the victim was stabbed seven times in his upper torso with a butcher knife during an early morning attack inside the victim’s S. Madison Street home.