Lawyers on Thursday afternoon agreed to delay the trial of a Casper man facing life imprisonment on allegations he shot and killed his mother in her home earlier this year.
Andrew Steplock, 27, had been scheduled to face trial Aug. 26 on four felonies, including a murder charge that carries with it the penalty of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Steplock has entered pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness to all four counts.
Thursday’s hearing had been scheduled with the expectation that a Wyoming State Hospital evaluation of Steplock’s mental condition would be ready for review. The report, however, has not yet been completed. Judge Daniel Forgey said a letter provided to him, prosecutors and defense attorneys indicated that the hospital had a technological issue preventing it from providing the report. The letter’s author promised the report would be provided by Aug. 28, Forgey indicated.
Because the report has not yet been prepared — and attorneys have not been able to solicit follow-up reports of their own — Forgey has not been able to rule on Steplock’s mental competency. Until the judge comes to a conclusion on that issue, Steplock cannot be tried.
The trial will be postponed, likely until December, the judge said.
The ruling is the latest in a case that law enforcement began investigating early Feb. 26, when police answering an alarm call south of downtown Casper found Deborah Steplock, 58, with a single gunshot wound to the head. When officers arrived, her husband was performing first aid on her. An ambulance transported her to Wyoming Medical Center, while detectives began investigating.
By midday, hospital staff had declared her brain dead. She was kept on life support until Feb. 28 in order to arrange the donation of her organs, which had been her living wish.
When law enforcement caught up with Steplock in Colorado, officers found him sleeping in his car parked outside a Loveland gas station. Local authorities took him into custody and he told Casper police detectives that he broke into his parents’ house to steal from them, according to court documents. He told law enforcement that his mother confronted him in the living room and he shot her, according to court documents filed by prosecutors.
Authorities caught up with Steplock within 24 hours of the shooting and extradited him to Wyoming on March 20. The next day, he appeared in Natrona County Circuit Court, where a judge set his bail requirement at $1 million. He has been incarcerated in lieu of the seven-figure cash requirement since.
In addition to the felony murder charge, Steplock faces a single count each of second-degree murder, aggravated burglary and possession of a deadly weapon with unlawful intent.
Steplock was largely silent during Thursday’s hearing. He identified himself by name when Forgey asked him to and twice conferred in whispers with Joe Cole, his court-appointed defense attorney. In response to questioning by the judge about his right to a speedy trial, Steplock said he did not remember an advisement of rights read to him earlier this year.
The judge then asked him a series of questions about his waiver of right to a speedy trial, which Steplock answered largely in monosyllables. Steplock, who wore an orange jail uniform, declined to ask questions of the judge or speak again with Cole about the decision. He remained silent throughout the rest of the hearing.
Earlier in the afternoon, lawyers also briefly addressed a pair of requests pertaining to evidence that prosecutors are expected to bring at trial. Cole said he would not contest admission of evidence indicating Steplock told police he also intended to shoot his father.
“I could fight it,” Cole said. “But I would lose.”
The defense attorney said he will not contest admission of third-party testimony that Deborah Steplock took a house key from her son the morning preceding the shooting. Cole said he may yet, however, request that the judge circumscribe prosecutors’ presentation of that testimony.
Following his ruling on the evaluation issue, Forgey said he would write to the state hospital noting the institution’s role in getting the case to trial.
“(I) will try to be judicious,” the judge told attorneys. “It’s frustrating.”
The lawyers will appear before Forgey on Sept. 6.