LISBON - Joseph Eltringham, the East Rochester Road man charged with assaulting, robbing and threatening a World War II veteran last August, changed his mind about pleading guilty Monday in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court.
Following a lengthy discussion in Judge Scott Washam's chambers with both defense attorney Richard Hura and Assistant County Prosecutor Ryan Weikart, the three emerged and announced Eltringham had decided to have a jury trial instead of pleading.
Last week, Hura had asked for the court to schedule a plea hearing because his client had
decided to change his plea from not guilty. Instead, a date of Sept. 24 was chosen for the jury trial and status conferences were set for Aug. 10 and Sept. 20.
Weikart said he plans to have Eltringham evaluated by another forensic psychologist, Dr. Phillip Resnick, a professor of psychiatry and the director of the division of forensic psychiatry at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. According to Resnick's credentials on a website affiliated with the university, he was a consultant testifying in many high-profile cases, including Jeffrey Dahmer, Timothy McVay the unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, Andrea Yates and Casey Anthony.
This will be the third time Eltringham will be evaluated. Before the end of the hearing, Eltringham was asked by Washam if he had any questions. At that point, Eltringham stood and said he would like to make a statement. Washam said he could not allow him to make a statement, only ask any questions he may have.
At that point, Eltringham turned his back to Washam, facing his wife and others in the courtroom. "Your honor I wish to address the court," he said.
Washam again said he would allow him to ask a question and Eltringham turned back around to ask why a third evaluation should be allowed. He added Washam had declined for the court to pay when Hura had asked for a second evaluation to be conducted by Dr. John Fabian.
Fabian is a forensic psychiatrist who specializes in a long list including competency to stand trial, not guilty by reason of insanity and neuropsychology impairment, which includes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
After the hearing, Hura said the report by Fabian was favorable to Eltringham, indicating he was not guilty by reason of insanity because he did not know what he was doing at the time of the offense and one of the contributing factors toward that was PTSD. Washam had ruled at an earlier hearing that Ohio does not recognize a diminished capacity defense for PTSD only a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.
"The VFW of Ohio was kind enough to pay for it," Hura said of Eltringham's evaluation by Fabian following the hearing. When contacted in May, Gerald Ward, the state commander of the Ohio VFW had denied the organization had paid for the evaluation.
After Monday's hearing, Weikart said the first evaluation was court-ordered and conducted by the Forensic Psychiatric Center and the second by Fabian was for the defense. This evaluation will be done at the request of the prosecutor's office and he will make the arrangements for Eltringham to meet with Resnick.
"It's not uncommon in these types of cases to seek a third evaluation," Hura said.
Eltringham faces between three to 21 years in prison. He is charged with aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony; felonious assault, a second-degree felony; and intimidation, a third-degree felony.
Eltringham, 45, spent 23 years in the National Guard and had recently returned from active duty shortly before he is accused of grabbing the 86-year-old Robert Kastelic by the neck, threatened to kill him and severely beat him over a 30-minute time frame. Then he allegedly stole $400 from Kastelic's wallet, asked if he could keep a ladder he had previously borrowed from Kastelic and went after title paperwork for Kastelic's pickup and his home. Finally, he allegedly threatened to kill Kastelic if he told anyone what happened.
According to authorities, Kastelic, who served as a Navy navigator during World War II, had escaped the attack by crawling from a bedroom window, across the road and into a nearby field, where he was later found by Chief Deputy Allan Haueter. Kastelic was hospitalized a week with his injuries.