A Newton man pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges related to a December armed standoff with the Cache County Sheriff’s Office.
During a preliminary hearing, defense attorney Shannon Demler argued his client Stuart Chad Martin, 25, was experiencing a serious depressive episode intensified by alcohol — he had no true intention of harming anyone other than himself. The alleged victim told the court she was not held hostage, but rather stayed with Martin to prevent a tragedy.
“I knew he wasn’t mentally stable,” the victim told the court, also stating Martin has long struggled with depression and “doesn’t feel like he deserves (his family’s) love.”
Cache County prosecutors, however, maintain Martin posed a significant threat to the alleged victim as well as the deputies who responded to the scene. Cache County Sheriff’s Office deputies testified that Martin made threats to “unload” on law enforcement, in addition to threats against the alleged victim at the end of a three hour timer if certain chores weren’t completed.
It’s alleged Martin held two handguns — one loaded, one unloaded — to the alleged victim’s head. In her testimony, the victim said Martin did this so she could better understand what he was going through.
At the time of the incident, deputies described Martin as “upset” and “emotional,” at one point telling deputies he was “preparing for battle or a war.” When the alleged victim left the home through a window, deputies said she was “crying” and appeared “terrified.” Though two shots were fired in the home, deputies testified no shots were aimed at law enforcement or the victim.
Judge Thomas Willmore bound Martin over for trial on 17 felonies, including first-degree aggravated kidnapping and 13 counts of third-degree possession of a firearm by a restricted person. However, Willmore concluded there was not probable cause for all charges against Martin — three counts of second-degree assault against a peace officer with a weapon were dropped.
Willmore said threats of using a dangerous weapon against the victim, in addition to Snapchat messages with threatening content, was enough to reasonably believe a kidnapping may have occurred.
“The garage will be insulated,” Willmore said, reading from one of the Snapchat messages, “or people will die, starting with (the alleged victim).”
Demler told The Herald Journal that though the burden for preliminary hearings is low, he and his client were hopeful more charges would have been dropped.
“It’s clearly a case about mental illness and depression,” Demler said.
Though Willmore said he was concerned for Martin’s mental health, he ordered Martin continue to be held without bail.
“You are a danger to yourself,” Willmore said, “and you’re a danger to others.”
A pretrial conference was scheduled for Feb. 25.
On Dec. 22, Cache County Sheriff’s Office SWAT responded to the report of a possible hostage situation at Martin’s home in Newton. According to an affidavit of probable cause, Martin became increasingly drunk and agitated while making threats against the woman and himself. Unable to gain entry to his gun safe, he fired a round into the safe’s combination keypad, and with the help of a hand truck, hauled the safe to the garage. He cut the safe open with a grinder and a reciprocating saw, according to prosecutors, to gain access to more weapons.
It’s alleged Martin told the victim she had three hours to insulate the garage and fix a wood-burning stove or she would be killed.
After speaking with negotiators, the alleged victim exited the home through a window and ran to SWAT stationed at a nearby church. Martin eventually surrendered to law enforcement with no further incident and was taken into custody.