County crunched in courts

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A rise in serious crime — including prosecuting Austin Sigg for the murder of Westminster 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway — is taxing the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office and draining the department’s resources.

“We’re strapped as an office,” Jefferson County District Attorney Pete Weir informed the Board of County Commissioners last week.

In a May 7 staff briefing, Weir told the three county commissioners that the Sigg murder trial, along with a recent spike in serious crime offenses, has left his department spread thin. His office is currently involved in 13 death-related cases.

“We will get it done. All cases are important for us. But it has stretched us to the max,” Weir told the commissioners.

A gag order regarding the Sigg case kept Weir from discussing very many specifics, but he did go over the case timeline. Westminster 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway was walking to school on Oct.5, 2012, when she disappeared. On Oct. 12 the media reported that remains of Ridgeway’s body had been found in the Leyden area.

Austin Sigg, 17 years old at the time, would later contact police and turn himself in for the crime. He made his first court appearance on Oct. 25.

District 3 Commissioner Don Rosier asked the DA if the types of murder cases in Jefferson County were presenting particular challenges.

Weir said he was not asking for additional staff funding for the Sigg case at this time, but that he may have to in the future. For comparison Weir referenced the Brunco Eastwood case that created $90,000 in court costs to prosecute. Eastwood, who opened fire on students at Deer Creek Middle School in 2010, plead not guilty by reason of insanity, which required the DA’s office provide psychological experts to counter that claim.

Weir said an insanity defense was a possibility in the Sigg case as well.

The state had offered some financial help — up to $75,000 allocated for expert and special witness expenses.

Weir, who took over the DA’s office in January, said high-profile cases, complex mental health prosecutions, and heavy caseloads all make it more important for him to retain experienced and skilled staff.