KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho --- The man accused of shooting his former fiancée in the head had run-ins with the law several times before pulling the trigger and Friday, many people wondered how someone with his violent background could have still been a free man.
Steven Denson was wanted in connection to the death of Kelly Pease, 37, who was found dead in a car on the Kootenai Health campus earlier this week. He apparently shot himself just before deputies could arrest him on Thursday night.
Steven Denson was arrested twice this year before the Pease shooting and both times was able to post bail.
His bond – the amount of money you give the government as a sort of promise that you will come back for future court dates – was set low enough that he was able to afford it.
Bond is determined by a judge with with several factors in mind.
The details from the Coeur d’Alene Police report from the first incident are shocking. When Pense told Denson she would not get back together with him in January, he became enraged.
Documents said he began to strangle her, then tried to stab her with a sharp object.
Police arrested Denson, and charged him with four crimes, one of which was a felony. Court records show prosecutors wanted Denson’s bond set at $50,000 but a judge had other ideas.
In the end, a judge set Denson’s bond at just $10,000 – an amount he was apparently able to provide to secure his release.
Nearly a week later, Denson wound up in jail again. This time, it was for violating his no-contact order with Pease. That charge - a misdemeanor - apparently warranted an even lower bond: just $2,500.
Denson was released again.
KREM 2 spoke with Scot Nass, a North Idaho attorney and former prosecutor to get some perspective on the case.
He said, essentially, decisions on bond amounts come down to a judge’s discretion. No criminal cases are the same and decisions before judges are not always black and white.
Nass said the issue of bail is a civil rights one. It allows someone accused of a crime to maintain their liberties, such as being able to work while their case is in court.
It is a balance between the idea that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty and the need to protect society from that suspect, he said.
When determining bail – if any – a judge will consider the crimes, the suspect’s criminal history, and ties to the community.
In Denson’s case, the judge that oversaw his first appearance did issue that no-contact order. It is unclear why the bond was lowered to $10,000.
Nass was not involved in Denson’s case and could not be sure if his release was rare or common.
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