Son pleads not guilty in Truckee elder abuse case | SierraSun.com

Son pleads not guilty in Truckee elder abuse case

Jenny Goldsmith
Sierra Sun

A Truckee man accused of assaulting his 74-year-old mother has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of elder abuse.

Truckee Police arrested Terry Gunder, 55, in late October after receiving reports that he had assaulted his mother, said Sgt. Dan Johnston in a news release.

In a phone interview Thursday, Gunder’s defense attorney said his client was innocent of the abuse charge.

Gunder was a retired firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service in Truckee, and had been his mother’s paid caretaker since 2001, said attorney Bob Hager of Reno in a phone interview Thursday. Hager said the mother had been legally disabled for the past three decades, and Gunder had taken her in after her significant other had died.

Suggesting what Gunder’s defense would be, Hager claimed Gunder’s mother had several lengthy hospitalizations that may have caused her mental condition to deteriorate.

“It’s a tragic situation because she is increasingly paranoid and disillusioned, and has now turned on her son,” Hager said.

According to police, the elderly woman sustained injuries in the assault and was taken to Tahoe Forest Hospital, where she was treated and released.

However, Hager claimed the injuries were self-inflicted.

“She was chasing him with a knife and destroying things in the home,” he said. “He was trying to calm her down and she ended up injuring herself.”

Gunder is scheduled to appear in a pre-trial felony conference on Jan. 8, and Nevada County Deputy District Attorney Bill Cornell said he expects a preliminary hearing to follow.

Cornell said Gunder’s attorney has offered to present a micro-cassette tape before the conference that may provide exculpatory evidence.

“Just because the defense attorney says it’s relevant, doesn’t mean that it is, but I’m willing to look into it,” Cornell said by phone on Thursday.

Hager said other evidence he intends to present includes witnesses who will attest to the mother’s diminished mental capacity.

“I am confident that once the truth comes out, he won’t be convicted,” Hager said. “He is a well-respected person who would not harm anyone, let alone his mother.”

A Nevada County judge authorized an emergency protection order, but the victim has not applied to the court for a restraining order, Hager said. She is living in her son’s residence while Gunder stays elsewhere.

“He is worried for her well-being, but at the same time, she is responsible for very serious charges being brought against him,” the attorney said of the case.