Judge cancels the scheduled rape trial of a Raymond man
BRENTWOOD — A state prison inmate whose suicidal tendencies set off concerns about courthouse security had his trial canceled after a closed-door hearing on Wednesday.
Jury selection was expected to begin on Monday for Patrick Eschenbrenner, 51, who faces charges that he sexually assaulted a Raymond girl between 2002 and 2007. The abuse began when the girl was 7 years old, according to indictments.
Eschenbrenner, who is being held at the state's Secure Psychiatric Unit, has been described as "highly suicidal" by his lawyer.
Eschenbrenner, formerly of Raymond, attempted suicide on the eve of his original trial date in April 8, according to court records.
An assessment by corrections staff prompted concerns that Eschenbrenner could attempt to harm himself or someone else while on trial.
Judge N. William Delker held a closed-door hearing last Wednesday with representatives from the sheriff's department, corrections officials and lawyers associated with the case to talk about security measures that may be needed during Eschenbrenner's trial.
Delker decided to close the hearing after public defender Brett Newkirk argued that his client's right to a fair trial could be jeopardized due to pre-trial publicity about the case.
The records also show a sealed document was filed after Wednesday's hearing.
No new trial date has been set.
Eschenbrenner faces six counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault.
He is already serving a 20- to 40-year prison sentence for a prior sexual assault conviction involving a young girl. A Rockingham County jury convicted him in that case in 2008.
That conviction was upended in 2011 when a judge granted Eschenbrenner a new trial.
But the state Supreme Court overturned that decision in February, returning Eschenbrenner to state prison.
While Eschenbrenner was freed on bail, a second victim came forward to investigators, leading to his indictment in the latest case.