Dayton machete suspect admits stalking | NevadaAppeal.com

Dayton machete suspect admits stalking

by Sheila Gardner
Nevada Appeal News Service

A Dayton man faces up to 15 years in prison after he pleaded guilty Tuesday to threatening a half dozen people in a bar with a machete.

James Preston, who originally was set for trial May 10 in the incident, changed his plea to guilty to one count of aggravated stalking in connection with the Jan. 9 incident.

“I drove from Dayton. On my cell phone, I threatened to come down here and harm and kill some people,” Preston said.

“Did you do it to scare them?” asked District Judge Dave Gamble.

“Yes,” Preston replied.

In exchange for his guilty plea, the district attorney’s office dismissed two additional counts.

Preston’s attorney, Kris Brown, asked if he could be released to undergo inpatient treatment for alcoholism while he awaits sentencing set for May 18. Preston has been in Douglas County Jail on $25,000 bail since he turned himself in on Feb. 1.

Gamble asked for “special constraints” before he would allow Preston to go for treatment as an inmate.

Gamble said he must be under global positioning system monitoring at all times so if he left the treatment center there would be instant notification to law enforcement and the Department of Alternative Sentencing who would alert the victims.

Prosecutor Laurie Trotter said the targets of Preston’s stalking still feared him and were concerned for their safety and their families.

“I understand he needs treatment,” she said, “but in-patient is voluntary, and he could leave anytime. He could drink and put the community at risk. I understand that he had no intention to kill but he had the intent to terrorize.”

Gamble ordered Preston to remain in custody until a plan is in place that answered all his concerns.

“If it can’t be arranged, he can’t go,” Gamble said.

Preston was charged with leaving multiple cell phone messages Jan. 9 to potential victims that he was on his way from Dayton, where he lives, to the Centerfield Bar in Gardnerville to kill people with a machete.

When deputies stopped his vehicle at highways 395 and 88 near midnight, they confiscated a machete behind the driver’s seat.

He was jailed on a mental health hold and admitted himself for treatment at West Hills Hospital in Reno for four days. He was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder and began a treatment regimen that included medication and therapy.

Brown said Tuesday that a psychological evaluation of her client indicated if Preston “really was sincere in his thought process of killing somebody, he wouldn’t have been calling ahead, broadcasting it.”

She said her client had been suffering from a lack of treatment for mental health issues and alcoholism since his incarceration.

Preston faces 2-15 years at his sentencing and up to a $5,000 fine. He also is eligible for probation.