Utah man gets prison for shooting neighbor over ‘telepathic’ rape
Courts • Michael Selleneit — who pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the shooting — could serve up to 30 years.
Published: May 16, 2013 03:04PM
Updated: December 7, 2013 11:31PM
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Melony Selleneit Courtesy Davis County Sheriff's Office

Farmington • To this day, Michael Selleneit believes his wife is in danger.

A year and a half after he shot his neighbor in Centerville — claiming self-defense because the neighbor had “telepathically” raped his wife — Selleneit’s attorney said he still hears voices telling him his wife is going to be killed or raped.

“He still to this day is very, very concerned about his wife’s safety,” attorney Julie George told 2nd District Judge Thomas Kay during Selleneit’s sentencing Thursday.

In January, the 55-year-old Selleneit pleaded guilty — but mentally ill — to reduced charges of attempted manslaughter and use of a firearm by a restricted person, both second-degree felonies, for shooting 41-year-old Tony Pierce in October 2011.

On Thursday, Kay ordered Selleneit to serve two consecutive terms of one-to-15 years in the Utah State Prison. However, Kay said he could be confined at the Utah State Hospital until hospital officials determine he no longer needs treatment. At that time, he would be taken to the prison.

Pierce said in a statement read in court by a friend that he felt Selleneit knew exactly what he was doing on the day he was shot while working in the yard outside his home at 555 N. 400 West.

“Mental defect or not, on that day you shot me with the intention to kill me,” the statement read. “How am I or my family supposed to ever feel safe again?”

Pierce said in the statement that he suffers pain daily from the single gunshot wound in his back, and said his daughters now fear their home is not safe.

“I hope you never get out, and I hope you never hurt another person as long as you live,” Pierce said in the statement.

George asked the judge if the sentences could run concurrently, saying her client shouldn’t be punished for having a mental illness. But prosecutor Jason Nelson countered that Selleneit is dangerous and the sentences should be served consecutively.

“This is a dangerous man as he sits here today,” Nelson told the judge. “This is a man who would do the same things tomorrow.”

Selleneit’s mental competency was questioned repeatedly after the shooting, but Kay ruled in September that he was competent to stand trial because the state statute requires only that a defendant be able to understand the charges and assist in his defense. Kay said Selleneit was capable of both, though mental health evaluators were split on his competency.

Selleneit has been diagnosed with an organic brain disorder and has “periodic delusional thought process, poor judgment [and] poor impulse control,” according to court documents. As a teenager, Selleneit suffered a brain injury in a car crash, and doctors have said he is “mentally ill and very likely will be the rest of his life,” court documents state.

Selleneit spoke at his sentencing, but a speech impediment made it difficult for court spectators to understand him. George said he had explained why he had to protect his wife.

According to previous testimony, Selleneit believed Pierce was having sex parties with his wife and was using crack cocaine to control her mind.

Selleneit’s wife, 55-year-old Melony Toone Selleneit, is charged with illegally buying the weapon for her husband and urging him to shoot the victim. She has been at the Utah State Hospital, and is scheduled for a competency review in June.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller