Charges in Hlinsky death upped to murder: As trial approaches, one defendant seeks to suppress a statement to investigators
The two men charged in the death of Steven “Beaver” Hlinsky of Forada in 2018 are now facing much more serious charges as their trial dates approach.
On May 20, Douglas County Attorney Chad Larson added second-degree murder charges against Jacob Elmo Larson, 34, and Troy Nathan Traut, 34, who are accused of beating Hlinsky so badly outside the Muddy Boot bar in Forada that he later died of his injuries. Previously, the most serious charge against each was first-degree manslaughter, which they are still facing.
Both are also charged with aiding and abetting murder and aiding and abetting manslaughter.
During a break in a Tuesday, June 4, contested omnibus hearing, Chad Larson declined to comment about the more serious charges.
Jacob Larson was in court Tuesday for the hearing, and his attorney asked Judge Timothy Churchwell to suppress part of the statement he made to law enforcement. The defense says Jacob Larson’s rights were violated during questioning.
“He said he wanted to remain silent seven to nine times during the interview,” defense attorney Todd Peterson told the judge.
The prosecutor turned over a CD and transcript of that interview to the judge. Written statements from both sides about the request to suppress evidence are due Wednesday, June 19.
Jacob Larson was initially interviewed May 5, after Hlinsky suffered injuries but before he died, according to the criminal complaint. He told law enforcement he was “burning one” in the bar and someone walked him out the door. He says upon being escorted out of the bar, he was shoved in the back and ended up 10 feet into the street. Jacob Larson says that is when he saw Hlinsky lying on the ground, asked him if he was OK and got no response.
In court Tuesday, his attorney repeated this argument.
“My client claimed he was pushed out the door by Mr. Hlinsky,” Peterson said. “At the point he turned around, Mr. Hlinsky was already on the ground and injured.”
The county attorney has asked the judge for a joint trial for both men because they are each charged with killing Hlinsky. However, defense attorneys for each objected to that approach, contending that it’s too late to change gears, since Traut’s trial is due to start on June 17, and that trying both men before the same jury would hinder each from calling the other as a defense witness.
According to the criminal complaint: Traut, Jacob Larson and two other men were sitting together at a table at the Muddy Boot. Surveillance video showed Traut appearing to approach Hlinsky several times in an “aggressive or agitated” manner. The video shows Traut grabbing a beer bottle in front of Hlinsky and throwing it against the wall.
The video then shows Jacob Larson walking over to Hlinsky, lighting what appears to be a marijuana pipe, then blowing the smoke toward him. Hlinsky appears to direct Jacob Larson to the door, stopping to talk to the bartender, then continuing to the door with Jacob Larson. According to the complaint, Hlinsky did not appear to be planning to leave the bar, but Traut grabbed him by the arm and pulled him outside. Jacob Larson is also seen putting Hlinsky in a headlock and helping to pull him outside, where they vanished from the bartender’s view and from the surveillance video.
Hlinsky died eight days later.