By Pat Caldwell
VALE — Anthony W. Montwheeler won’t be going to court this month.
The man facing charges related to a double-homicide in January can’t appear in court because he is still recovering from his injuries, his attorney said in a court filing last week.
Today, Feb. 22, Malheur County Circuit Court Judge Erin K. Landis agreed to postpone Montwheeler’s plea hearing until April 17.
Montwheeler was originally slated for a pre-trial conference last week and a plea hearing this week.
Montwheeler is charged with aggravated murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree assault. He is accused of kidnapping and stabbing to death his ex-wife, Annita Harmon, 40, and then killing Vale resident David Bates, 38, and injuring his wife, Jessica, 35, in a crash on Oregon Highway 201 southwest of Ontario.
Falls said in court documents that the postponement was necessary to allow Montwheeler adequate time to recover and conduct therapy for several surgeries. Falls also said in his declaration that Montwheeler isn’t ready to participate in his defense because of his injuries and pain medication.
Montwheeler had abdominal surgery last week and was scheduled for hip replacement surgery as well, the lawyer wrote.
Montwheeler is recovering from a broken hip, ankle and internal injuries.
Montwheeler was hospitalized for a time after the crash then lodged in the Malheur County Jail. However his stay at the jail was brief as his medical condition did not stabilize and he was returned to an area hospital.
Meanwhile, the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office is still searching for ways to pay for Montwheeler’s rising medical costs, which fall to the agency since Montwheeler’s arrest. Along with the medical bill, the sheriff’s office must provide 24-hour security at the hospital.
Sheriff Brian Wolfe last week estimated the price tag for security for Montwheeler at $1,000 a day. Montwheeler entered the hospital Jan. 29. By Wednesday, Feb. 22, Montwheeler’s security alone cost the county $25,000.
“We are exploring all options, Medicaid, the Oregon Health Plan and it is looking promising but nothing for sure in the works,” Wolfe said Monday.