CONCHO — Details have emerged about the Nov. 20, 2020 arrest of Dean S. Terrell, 51, of Concho who has been charged with two counts of aggravated assault, Class 3 Felonies and one count each of disorderly conduct with a weapon and endangerment, both Class 6 Felonies. The case underscores the disconnect between the criminal justice system and the mental health system. Terrell is presumed by law to be innocent.
The 911 call
The case started when Issac Smith, his wife and five children drove up from Phoenix to look at a 40-acre parcel of property for sale near County Road 5216. A realtor had sent him there, according to the Apache County Sheriff’s Office police report. While there, Smith stated that he heard a gunshot and saw a “puff of dust” about 10 meters from him, according to the report. Mrs. Smith then pointed out to him a tan colored truck parked on a hill about a quarter-mile away, with a man and a woman inside it. The family drove over to it, expecting to get help, but they came across Terrell and his wife, the woman in the truck. Terrell allegedly pointed a handgun at them and asked “Do you want me to shoot your tire out?” The Smiths quickly drove off and called 911, but the tan truck followed them for “a long distance,” as they made their way back to State Route 61.
The dispatcher asked the family to meet the ACSO at Concho School, which they did. The tan truck was no longer around. The responding deputy asked Smith to take the deputy to where the incident happened, but Smith didn’t want to take his family back there. The ages of the children are not known. Smith got into the deputy’s car to go back to the scene and the family stayed at the school. While en route back to the scene, Smith’s wife called him and said that she just saw the tan truck pass by the school, headed in the same direction as the deputy’s vehicle. The deputy turned around and eventually stopped the truck and found the Terrells inside. Dean had a revolver in his pants and Terrell’s wife was armed as well.
The deputy secured both weapons and started to wonder whether Dean Terrell was having some kind of mental health crisis. Terrell demanded that the deputy call the National Guard to “confirm with them who he (Terrell) was.” Terrell also stated that there were drones flying around that were recording everything. Terrell referred to himself as “Cricket,” and told the deputy that he has a disease and to not touch him, stated the report. As an aside, court records show that Terrell is disabled with “complex PTSD,” (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and receives income from Veteran’s Administration and Social Security Disability.
In his interview with Terrell, the deputy told Terrell why he was there and Terrell allegedly admitted to shooting “at someone three times,” because he wanted to “warn them,” states the report. He also allegedly admitted to pointing his gun at the family when they drove up to him and said that he was going to shoot their tire. Terrell was arrested and booked into jail. Two handguns and a bag containing what is believed to be marijuana were seized. Terrell’s wife was driven to a friend’s house — she claimed that she didn’t know how to drive a stick shift truck.
Terrell was charged by direct complaint in the Apache County Superior Court on Nov. 24. He was scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 30, Dec. 2 and Jan. 13, but through a series of events that are still unclear, Terrell was taken from the jail to a mental health facility. Two doctors there apparently recommended that Terrell stay for 180 days and he was put on medication. In that regard, an unidentified report opined that Terrell is “a danger to himself and others,” according to his defense attorney, Ronald Wood in a statement to the judge.
Court records indicate that Terrell “was committed to treatment in Show Low in a locked down facility and released and rebooked into jail...according to law.” Wood seemed very interested in learning by which law exactly locked down Terrell in a mental health facility to begin with, but more importantly once he was released, on whose authority was Terrell discharged from the facility way before the 180 recommended treatment and who ordered him re-booked into jail, the jail which allegedly changed Terrell’s medication.
In a Dec. 22 motion for release, Terrell argues that he was “inexplicably returned to the jail. There was no warrant and apparently there was no order transferring him to (the facility.) The jail, apparently, vacated his release order and sent him to Show Low and now has Mr. Terrell re-incarcerated without process from the Court.” Detention facilities have no authority to vacate a court order.
Terrell appeared in court on Jan. 27 in a wheelchair and the exasperated Wood was still trying to piece together what had transpired with the medical stay and the re-booking, and on what legal basis that happened. Presiding Judge Michael Latham had reviewed the procedural history of the case and observed that Terrell wasn’t ordered released to go to treatment, just that he was ordered to be treated. Latham also observed that the unidentified report recommended that Terrell get in-patient treatment not to exceed 180 days. That like regular medical care, the jail routinely transports inmates for treatment of physical disease or injury, and the judge doesn’t see a significant difference in this case concerning mental health treatment. Finally, Latham said, because Terrell wasn’t technically released from jail, he could be returned there without a new court order.
Attorney Wood had also pointed out that the time set by court rule for Terrell to have his first court hearings had long since passed, that it appears that Terrell’s rights had been violated and that he shouldn’t be in jail on a $100,000 bond. The state represented by Deputy County Attorney Garrett Whiting opposed release and it is unknown how the court ruled on the motion, but jail records show that as of press time, Terrell is not listed as an inmate there.
But the defense made its record of the irregularities in this case, preserved the issue for appeal, as it’s called. Appellate courts won’t hear a complaint about what the trial court did unless the complaining party complained about it to the trial court, and gave the trial judge an opportunity to considerate it. If the trail court got it wrong, that’s one thing, but the appellate court won’t touch it if it wasn’t even brought up. In this case, the defense has properly preserved these issues.
Terrell ended up waiving his right to a preliminary hearing on Jan. 27; his next court date is Feb. 17.