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Man deemed unfit to stand trial now faces assault charges

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Daily Inter Lake | July 9, 2020 1:00 AM

A Flathead County District Court judge recently ordered a Kila man to return to the county to face charges he allegedly brutally assaulted and a raped a woman in 2017.

Alexander Kim Torppe, 33, was returned to the Flathead County Justice Center June 30. He is being held on $250,000 bail while facing four felony counts for sexual intercourse without consent, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon.

Torppe, through his court-appointed public defenders Alisha Backus and Maury Solomon, argued he was unfit to stand trial. Torppe spent time at the Montana State Hospital claiming he didn’t understand the legal proceedings he was part of and was diagnosed with a severe major depressive order. Torppe also said he heard and felt “frequencies” from the modulator.

When the defense first requested Torppe’s fitness to stand trial be determined, the Flathead County Attorney’s Office and District Judge Heidi Ulbricht agreed.

After Torppe was examined by Dr. Virginia Hill, Ulbricht ruled on Sept. 26, 2019, he was unfit to proceed. An order was also issued for state hospital staff to give the defendant medication.

Torppe met again with Montana State Hospital staff psychologist Dr. Timothy J. Casey and staff psychiatrist Dr. Hill Nov. 27, 2019.

He indicated he still didn’t understand the charges against him or legal procedures and denied previous courtroom experience, according to court documents.

Torppe allegedly told the doctors interviewing him he believed drug use “ruined my brain, I hate them, I’m never doing them again.”

The doctors wrote in their report to the court the use of various medications weren’t successful.

In a report to Judge Ulbricht, they both said Torppe was still considered unfit to proceed, and his commitment to the Montana State Hospital was extended until March 26, 2020.

Then, two hearings were held in June before Judge Ulbricht regarding Torppe’s fitness to proceed.

Torppe appeared on Vision Net from the state hospital’s Forensic Mental Health Facility in Galen. Testimony was given by his ex-wife Jessica Estep-Biscan, forensic psychiatrist Dr. William Stratford, Dr. Hill, attorney William Managhan from the Public Defender’s office and Torppe’s mother, Stacey Lyster Powells.

After the hearings were held, Judge Ulbricht issued her order June 23, stating “the Court finds the totality of the evidence presented supports the conclusion Torppe is malingering his symptoms.

As part of the judge’s ruling, recordings of Torppe’s calls from the Flathead County Detention Center with Powells between January and July 2018 were introduced. In them, Torppe discussed his legal matters at length, including talking about power of attorney, his lawyer, the fact the calls are recorded and not to discuss his case, his arrest, evidence and what he deemed “false allegations.”

In a July 2018 call with his mother, Torppe discussed the attorneys involved in the case, a plea offer and he also referred to a charge of tampering with a witness. He also said he planned to sue his victim. The next day Torppe’s attorney’s asked for a evaluation of his mental health and fitness to proceed. He was finally admitted to the state hospital on Feb. 13, 2019. Soon after he was determined unfit to stand trial.

Then in September 2019, Dr. Hill testified Torppe had asked a social worker about his “motion to dismiss” and whether it had been successful.

Torppe’s motion to dismiss centered on Montana constitutional deficiencies for dealing with mental illness in criminal proceedings. His case was presented to the Montana State Forensic Review Board, which determined “his pronounced legal knowledge deficit appears feigned.”

In February, Torppe was advised of the evidence against him and he indicated he “wanted a trial.” Dr. Hill said she didn’t believe Torppe was fit to proceed and asked for another 90-day commitment, which was granted.

The state’s attorneys then asked Judge Ulbricht to allow them to get a second opinion regarding Torppe’s fitness, citing “mounting evidence of malingering.”

The Montana State Hospital issued a report on June 9. It indicated Torppe spoke with peers at the hospital about a medication Dr. Hill planned to give him. He also reported his grandmother lived in Los Angeles and was “hunkering down because of the Coronavirus.”

At the hearings regarding Torppe’s fitness, Dr. Stratford said he didn’t talk to anyone who believed Torppe had a significant mental disease.

Estep-Biscan, testified she believed he was intelligent, had previous interactions with the justice system and previously understood court procedure during their divorce.

Torppe’s mother said he had difficulty in school, had some family history of mental illness and was possibly subject to abuse during time at a school located in Thompson Falls when he was young.

Torppe then filed an objection on June 18 to the state’s litigation of his fitness to proceed.

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed by Flathead County Sheriff’s Office Detectives Brandy Hinzman and Bret Childers, on Dec. 24, 2017, the victim knocked on her parents’ door at about 7 a.m. The court documents state that they found her badly injured and described her as “unrecognizable.” She was taken to Kalispell Regional Medical Center’s emergency room and then the intensive care unit.

She was diagnosed with a lacerated liver, collapsed lung and bleeding in the brain, as well as bruises and cuts all over her body, court documents stated. Her eyes were swollen shut and clumps of her hair were missing.

The parents told detectives they hadn’t seen her in months and suspected Torppe was responsible. The victim awoke two days later and stated “Alex did it.”

Torppe was found later at a Conrad Drive residence and arrested. He was in the county jail before his transfer to the state hospital in Deer Lodge.

County detectives spoke to the victim after she regained memories of the months prior to her hospitalization. She said Torppe took her to his home in a remote area on Browns Meadow Road.

According to documents, the victim said Torppe became controlling and physically abusive, and she felt she couldn’t leave the residence because he repeatedly threatened to kill her or her family members if she left. The court documents show she also reported being assaulted several times, which medical providers confirmed, saying not all of her injuries were fresh.

Additional information in the affidavit indicated Torppe allegedly forced the woman to have sex.

When detectives questioned Torppe, he allegedly admitted beating the victim and causing some of her injuries. He also claimed to have videotaped beating her and intended to show it to other people.

Torppe is facing a maximum total of 240 years in state prison.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com