The murder trial of Isaiah Rios in the death of a Longmont man last summer began Thursday after months of delays because of the coronavirus.
Isaiah Rios, 30, is charged with first-degree murder after deliberation and felony murder in the death of Gary Hockaday.
Rios also is charged with first-degree assault, first-degree burglary, second-degree burglary, motor vehicle theft, second-degree trespassing, theft from an at-risk person, criminal mischief, felony menacing, theft and habitual criminal sentence enhancers.
Police found Hockaday, 80, dead in his home in the 2200 block of Jewel Street in Longmont on July 18, 2019, after his wife came home and found the home ransacked and their truck gone. An autopsy found that Hockaday had been stabbed 56 times.
“Not one, or five, or 10 or 20 or 30 or 40. Not even 50,” Boulder Deputy District Attorney Erica Baasten said during opening statements. “The defendant stabbed Gary Hockaday 56 times.”
After the body was found, police were called by witnesses who reported suspicious activity at a storage facility at 12121 Sugar Mill Road, about a 15-minute drive away. Police found Rios hiding in one of the storage units and found Hockaday’s truck on scene filled with items from the Hockaday home.
Police said Rios had been tied to a string of assaults, threats and break-ins in the days and hours prior to the killing.
“It was the culmination in a series of crimes the defendant committed over an 18-day period,” Baasten said, before going through the timeline with jurors.
“You’re going to see how all this evidence comes together,” Baasten said.
But Rios’ defense attorney Lovel Tokic said prosecutors did not have forensic evidence to actually place Rios in the Hockaday home.
“Isaiah Rios did not kill Gary Hockaday,” Tokic said. “Mr. Rios was never in the Hockaday home. What happened to Mr. Hockaday was a tragedy, but it was not at the hands of Mr. Rios.”
Tokic said police and prosecutors rushed to a conclusion in immediately pointing the finger at Rios for the murder and the string of crimes.
“Longmont police had already decided Mr. Rios was not only the scapegoat for the death of Mr. Hockaday, they decided he would be the scapegoat for a summer of unsolved crimes.”
Rios’ trial is the first felony trial being conducted in Boulder County since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the courts for most of the summer.
Following jury selection last week, the status of the case was briefly put into doubt earlier this week when a member of the defense team was hospitalized with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
Attorneys were able to finalize the 12 jurors and two alternates remotely and the trial was able to resume in person Thursday.
However, Boulder District Judge Andrew Hartman said he had to release one of the alternates for a family emergency, and another juror fainted during opening arguments Thursday.
While the juror ultimately refused medical treatment and said she has dealt with fainting spells before, she was dismissed by Hartman, leaving no alternates for the remainder of the two week trial.
Reporter Mitchell Byars will be live-tweeting coverage of the trial on Twitter @mitchellbyars. The trial can also be seen on WebEx at www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/District/Custom.cfm?District_ID=20&Page_ID=1053 by selecting Courtroom P.