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Stabbing case goes to jury

Ex-wife in hospital after apparent suicide effort

Published July 25, 2008 at 2:44 p.m.
Updated July 25, 2008 at 11:53 p.m.

A Jefferson County jury began deliberations in the attempted murder trial of Nancy Bautista while she lay unconscious in the hospital after an apparent suicide attempt Friday - the day she was to testify in her own defense.

Bautista, 54, a registered nurse, was found unconscious in the bathtub of her apartment Friday morning after she failed to show up for trial in Jefferson County District Court.

She is charged with attempted first-degree murder for allegedly stabbing her husband, college administrator Michael Bautista, in the back April 15, 2007, while he worked on his computer preparing a property list for their pending divorce.

Nancy Bautista had appeared on time for all court appearances, but her failure to show up Friday morning threw attorneys and police into a frantic attempt to check on her welfare.

She had attempted suicide in May 2007 and was considered suicidal in the months before the trial, defense attorney Michael Ferber said.

Nancy Bautista was barely breathing and had no pulse when police found her in the bathtub with a burning candle and crucifix on the toilet seat, said Jefferson County investigator Russ Boatright.

Judge won't grant mistrial

Although there was no water in the tub, doctors said it appeared that she had been submerged. Tests indicated she did not suffer brain damage, Boatright said.

Ferber asked for a mistrial, but District Judge Lily Oeffler denied the motion, saying Bautista had waived her presence for the remainder of the trial by choosing to attempt suicide.

Under the law, Oeffler said, "Miss Bautista has decided to absent herself from this proceeding. She has picked a dreadful way to do it, but she has created this. This is a decision she has made." Oeffler earlier had issued a bench warrant for her arrest when she failed to appear in court.

The trial resumed with closing arguments, over Ferber's strong objections.

"This seems cruel and inhumane," he said "She is sick. She suffers from a mental illness. She lay down in that bathtub this morning in water and tried to kill herself. To continue with the trial while she is unconscious in the hospital is unconscionable."

Ferber said Bautista's daughter had spoken to her at about 7 p.m. Thursday and she seemed "in good spirits" and prepared to take the stand today.

But the defense case took a bad turn Thursday afternoon when a key expert, Roger Carlson, took the stand and admitted that his doctorate in psychology came from a diploma mill in Texas.

Boatright said he, too, was able to obtain a doctorate in psychology in less than 24 hours from the diploma mill, which he said also offers applicants a 4.0 grade-point average for an additional $75.

Ferber said he just found out about the background of his expert Thursday when Carlson was being questioned by prosecutors. "It was a total shock," said Ferber. He said Carlson has several clinics in the metro area and he has sent clients there.

'Emotionally draining case'

Carlson was to testify that Nancy Bautista was under the influence of drugs and alcohol during the attack on her husband and that her troubles could be traced to childhood abuse, which left her with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Ferber told jurors during his closing that "this is probably the most emotionally draining case I've ever had in my life."

He called Michael Bautista's version of events "baloney" and said Nancy Bautista stabbed her husband after he slammed her into the wall and threw her on the floor as they argued about his extramarital affairs.

"He was lying his head off about everything," Ferber said.

Prosecutor Charles Tingle reminded jurors Nancy Bautista is on trial, not her husband.

"No one will say he should win husband- of-the-year or defend his conduct searching porn sites or defend his infidelity," Tingle said. "Call it despicable, but it's important to the case because it establishes Nancy Bautista's motive."

Tingle said Nancy Bautista was angry and sought revenge against her husband, telling him after she stabbed him, "I want you to feel the pain that I feel."

Bautista disabled phones in the home and knocked a cell phone out of her husband's hand, refusing his repeated pleas to call for help, Tingle said. Instead, she asked her husband to lie on the floor with her as the blood drained out of his body.

"She wanted him to die," Tingle said.

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