CUSTER COUNTY— Trenton R. Esch, 44 of Broken Bow, is looking at a life sentence for the alleged murder of his stepmother on Saturday, July 11. Esch made his first appearance in Custer County Court via video conference on Monday, July 13 from the Dawson County Jail. Esch is facing three alleged counts of first-degree murder (class IA felony), use of a firearm during the commission of a felony (class IC felony), and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person (class ID felony).
The murder charge carries a life imprisonment sentence, the use of a firearm charge has a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of fifty in prison, and the possession of a firearm charge carries a mandatory minimum of three years and a maximum of fifty years in prison.
When asked about an attorney, Esch stated that he would hire his own attorney, but if he was unsuccessful he would like the court to appoint him one if he qualified. Judge Tami Schendt stated the court would allow him time to hire his own attorney and if he was unable to hire one, the court would evaluate his financial status to see if he qualifies for a court-appointed attorney.
To allow Esch time to hire an attorney, the court set a status hearing for August 3 at 10:30 AM.
The court also heard arguments on bond which was set at $5 million. Custer County Attorney Steve Bowers argued that no bond should be issued as this is a murder case and the Nebraska Constitution gives the option for no bond when the proof is evident or presumption is great.
Bowers also argued that no bond should be set as the alleged murder took place in front of two minor children who identified Esch at the scene. Bowers noted that Esch was also a danger to the community after a search of his home revealed approximately ten firearms with ammunition. Esch had a prior felony for shooting a Custer County Sherriff’s vehicle and also had violated a protection order previously imposed by the court.
Esch chose to not make an argument on his bond and stated he would talk to an attorney first before making any comments. Due to the argument made by Bowers, Judge Schednt ruled that Esch will be held in jail on no bond.