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Utah woman in 'telepathic rape' case sentenced to mental health program

Published October 31, 2013 2:46 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Farmington • For 11 years, the Centerville neighbors had exchanged little more than a passing glance.

No smiles. No gestures. No words.

But with a crack of gunfire, and blare of sirens, the neighbors' lives became inextricably entwined, as Michael and Meloney Selleneit faced criminal charges for shooting Tony Pierce over "telepathic rape."

On Thursday, it was Tony Pierce's last chance to say something to the woman who urged her husband to shoot him in the back two years ago.

But he declined to speak, asking a family friend to instead read aloud a written statement.

It was his first step to getting back to normal, he said later. To reclaiming the distance between him and his attackers, to moving beyond the fear and the pain.

"It gets easier every day," Pierce said after the hearing. "With time, I know this will fade and become no more than a very bad memory."

Selleneit, 55, also declined to speak to the court Thursday as 2nd District Judge Thomas Kay handed down her sentence: another 30 days of jail after the two years she has already spent behind bars, followed by five years of strict probation that includes constant mental-health treatment and bans the woman from going anywhere near Pierce or his family.

She also was ordered to pay more than $11,700 in restitution. The court will check in on her progress every six months.

Selleneit, who pleaded guilty but mentally ill in September to two second-degree felony charges of attempted criminal solicitation and possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, entered a plea agreement with prosecutors that spared her additional incarceration in exchange for agreeing to undergo mental health treatment.

"We don't want to set her up to fail," prosecutor Jason Nelson said. "She needs to be in a mental health treatment program immediately."

Her husband, 55-year-old Michael Selleneit, was sent to prison in May for shooting Pierce after claiming that Pierce was "telepathically raping" his wife.

In January, Michael Selleneit pleaded guilty and mentally ill to reduced charges of attempted manslaughter and use of a firearm by a restricted person, both second-degree felonies.

He was ordered to serve two consecutive one-to-15-year terms at the Utah State Prison — a sentence Pierce said he was satisfied with.

"Hopefully he can get the help that he needs at the prison," Pierce said. "I hope that if he does get out, the time he spends behind bars will help him realize what he did was wrong."

Pierce, who has suffered persisting physical ailments and post traumatic stress symptoms since the shooting, said he believes Meloney Selleneit deserves just as much blame as her husband.

"He froze before he pulled the trigger," Pierece said. "He wasn't going to do it until she encouraged him."

Pierce said the day he was shot he had been standing on a ladder repairing his trailer when his neighbors came out of their home, near 555 N. 400 West in Centerville.

He didn't see Michael Selleneit raise the gun his wife had purchased. He didn't watch him pull the trigger. He heard the bang and felt a pain in his back.

Pierce would later undergo two surgeries to repair the damage to his spleen, stomach, pancreas, heart sac and kidney.

Police said Michael Selleneit believed Pierce had "telepathically raped" his wife, andhis attorney said he still feared for Meloney Selleneit's safety at the time of his sentencing in May.

Meloney Selleneit's sentence, which had been pre-agreed upon by prosecutors and Selleneit's defense attorney, was a big disappointment to Pierce and his family, he said.

"When I found out that Meloney Selleneit was being offered a plea deal that included probation only as a sentence, it felt like I had been shot all over again," Pierce said in a written statement. "Mental illness does not make it OK to hurt other people."

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae