Yager's retrial begins Tuesday

By Pat Sunderland


It's now been seven years since the brutal slaying of Melinda Tackett Yager in Paonia, and while her estranged husband has been jailed since her death, his conviction is still up in the air.

Yager was convicted of second degree murder following a jury trial in November 2012, but won an appeal when his attorney successfully argued that the trial court erroneously refused to instruct the jury on the defense of insanity.

The conviction was overturned and Yager is to be retried next week. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

In preparation for the trial, Judge Steven Schultz heard pretrial motions in January from public defender Kori Zapletal, district attorney Dan Hotsenpiller and Janet Drake from the state attorney general's office.

There's little dispute about Yager's role in the death of his wife; what's in question is his state of mind at the time of her death.

Several incidents between the time the Yagers separated in July 2010 and Melinda's death six months later illustrate that Yager acted knowingly and that he was sane at the time of Melinda's murder, Hotsenpiller argued. He outlined several incidents which he says establish knowledge and intent, and counter the claim of insanity being forwarded by Yager's defense.

Zaplatel argued that several of those incidents are unduly prejudicial to her client. His world was coming apart, she told the judge, and he became so stressed out he went into a disassociative state. She has lined up experts to testify that Yager was not sane when he slashed Melinda's throat.

The trial is set to begin Tuesday, Feb. 27. The district attorney's office anticipates jury selection will take the first three to four days. A total of three weeks have been aside for the trial.