Murder suspect once again delays entering plea

Murder suspect Branden Riddle-Terrel postponed entering a plea in court Thursday with attorneys for both the defense and the prosecution indicating there are ongoing negotiations, presumably regarding a potential plea.

“He’s not ready to enter a plea,” said attorney Gregory Bentley during a brief hearing in Nevada County Superior Court.

“There is a discussion going on.”

Riddle-Terrel is scheduled to return to court May 21.

Assistant District Attorney Anna Ferguson said she could not comment beyond the fact that she is discussing those negotiations with the family of the victim.

In January, Riddle-Terrel’s attorneys indicated they were looking into the possibility of entering a dual plea based on insanity, and a psychiatric examination was conducted.

Riddle-Terrel allegedly had been on a drug- and whiskey-fueled binge before he launched a savage attack on Ryan Roth, stabbing him at least 18 times at Roth’s Lake of the Pines home in February 2012.

He has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder with a special allegation of use of a deadly weapon in Roth’s death, as well as one count of criminal threats against a female victim, Melissa Lawrence.

Lawrence testified at a preliminary hearing into the evidence that Riddle-Terrel had been drinking, as well as smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine and inhaling nitrous oxide that night.

After the stabbing, Lawrence drove away with Riddle-Terrel in the passenger seat of her car. She testified that she pulled over after Riddle-Terrel told her he killed Roth. She said he began strangling her before she was able to escape, at which point he drove away in her car.

Riddle-Terrel led law enforcement agencies on a car chase through three counties, driving through two sets of spike strips before being extricated from the car with the assistance of a K-9 officer.

In other court news

— A Grass Valley man charged with attempted murder has been held to answer in a case stemming from an alleged assault on another inmate at Wayne Brown Correctional Facility.

Eric Craig Hodges, 36, allegedly went to a residence on Maiden Lane Nov. 30, 2012, and attacked the couple who live there with a hammer. The attack allegedly was premeditated and related to a potential abusive situation dating back to Hodges’ childhood.

The 48-year-old male victim sustained lacerations to the head; his 41-year-old wife had a fractured jaw and lacerations to the face and head.

Hodges was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, second-degree burglary and making criminal threats.

He incurred new charges of battery causing serious bodily injury after allegedly breaking a cell mate’s jaw in January.

A preliminary hearing into the evidence against him in the January incident took place Thursday in court. The victim, Brandon Roberts, testified that he was Hodges’ cell mate.

Roberts said that on Jan. 3, both men were returning from court dates and he asked Hodges a question about drug court. Hodges then punched him in the jaw, breaking it in two places, Roberts said.

According to Roberts, he did not know Hodges before they became cell mates, and he did not know why Hodges attacked him.

Roberts had surgery, and a plate was inserted in his jaw, he said.

Judge Candace Heidelberger found sufficient evidence to hold Hodges to answer on the battery charge and set formal arraignment for May 17.

The next court date in Hodges’ attempted murder case is set for May 23, when two witnesses are set to testify at a conditional hearing.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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The Union Updated May 9, 2013 11:58PM Published May 14, 2013 10:48AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.