Rio Blanco County shooting suspect to appear Oct. 7 |

Rio Blanco County shooting suspect to appear Oct. 7

Defense attorney waiting on reports before building strategy

Joe Moylan

The suspect in a fatal shooting last month in Rio Blanco County is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 7.

Neil James Joy, 30, is charged in Rio Blanco County District Court with reckless manslaughter, a Class 4 felony, and unlawful possession of a firearm while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a controlled substance, a misdemeanor.

Martin Beeson, Ninth Judicial District Attorney, filed charges Aug. 19. The alleged offenses stem from the Aug. 5 shooting death of Meeker resident James "Jeb" Berthelson, 32, in rural Rio Blanco County.

Grand Junction attorney Gordon Gallagher is representing Joy.

He said he is waiting on reports from prosecutors before building a defense strategy.

"In terms of where we are in the process, the prosecution is putting out reports," Gallagher said. "I am supposed to have those within the next week or so.

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"I do not have them yet, which means nothing is new because they haven't given me anything yet."

Gallagher said he put in a request for prosecution reports last week, but the process may have been held up because many of the state's district attorneys were in Snowmass this week for the Colorado District Attorney's Council.

"Most of the D.A.s have been gone the first several days of this week for conference," Gallagher said. "That may or may not have slowed the process down. We're just waiting to get everything at this point."

Gallagher said he would not comment on a potential plea agreement or other possible arrangements with prosecutors because he doesn't have all the case information.

"My philosophy is never to do anything until I know everything, have seen everything and have read everything," Gallagher said. "And, at this point, I don't have anything.

"I like to explore every possible avenue, what those options may be. I just don't know yet."

Rio Blanco County authorities reported that Joy and Berthelson left Meeker about 5 p.m. Aug. 5 to scout elk.

They were 45 miles northeast of town when a firearm allegedly in Joy's hand discharged between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m., and a bullet struck Berthelson in the back of the left hip.

EMTs tried to revive Berthelson at a ranch near the shooting, but were unsuccessful.

Authorities said Joy originally told officers at the scene his friend Berthelson was struck in the back by a bullet that had ricocheted.

He turned himself into authorities Aug. 9 after investigations conducted by a Grand Junction medical examiner, Rio Blanco deputies, an investigator from the district attorney's office and Colorado Bureau of Investigation agents alleged determined otherwise.

Beeson said he is restricted from providing further comment on the case due to a gag order issued by Judge Daniel Petre.

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