BISBEE — A man who shot his neighbor during a disagreement on Aug. 13 in Elfrida will appear in Cochise County Superior Court for two hearings next week.
But Judge Wallace Hoggatt issued an order dated Nov. 21 remanding the attempted first-degree murder charge and the three aggravated assault counts for a new determination of probable cause.
The judge said the County Attorney’s Office should have instructed the grand jury about a statute that allows a person to use deadly physical force to prevent the commission of a non-imminent aggravated assault.
On Nov. 29, the four charges were presented to a different grand jury. The jurors did not indict Koch for the attempted murder charge or one of the aggravated assault charges. But they did indict him on the other two aggravated assault counts.
According to defense attorney Joseph DiRoberto, Liest, 30, “had demonstrated himself to the defendant to be a violent, ill-tempered bully who is obsessed with alcohol and firearms including an AK-47 assault rifle that Mr. Liest brandished and fired on a regular basis during all hours of the night.”
Liest was intent on intimidating and harassing Koch, DiRoberto says in a court filing. Koch is president of an association that maintains the water supply from a well that serves Koch, Liest and another neighbor. Koch was in the process of taking legal action against Liest because he refused to pay his assessments.
On the day of the shooting, Koch was on a tractor cutting the grass on his own property, according to DiRoberto. Liest approached Koch “in a hostile and threatening manner while muttering under his breath in an incoherent fashion.”
However, during a phone interview on Friday, Liest said he is not the “monster” he is being made out to be. He is a volunteer firefighter, an electrician, a member of the Elfrida Youth Committee and the father of three children.
Liest claims he paid his water bills on time. He said he drinks beer but he is “not a drunk.” He said he has never owned a gun. He added that some of his friends have brought guns to his house and they safely fired them on his property.
DiRoberto says Koch shot Liest because he believed the victim was reaching behind his back for a weapon. Liest claims he “did not reach for anything.” According to Deputy County Attorney Gerald Till, Liest did not have a firearm with him at the time.
Liest was shot twice. He said one bullet struck his rib and shoulder, and the other bullet hit the side of his back.
“What [Koch] did took me by surprise, as well as everybody else. There was absolutely not a reason,” Liest said.
Two people recently filed injunctions against Liest, according to court records. In late November, Anita Marcum, of Elfrida, and Eileen Smith, of McNeal, both filed injunctions against harassment.
Liest said he thinks Marcum and Smith know Koch and they filed those injunctions to help his case.
Koch is scheduled to be arraigned on the two aggravated assault charges on Monday. He also will appear in court for a pre-trial hearing on the three endangerment counts on Friday.
DiRoberto said he expects all five of the charges will be consolidated into one case.
Till could not be reached for comment.
A jury trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 25.