Mental evaluation ordered for Idaho man charged with murder in shooting death of his pregnant wife

Dec 5, 2023, 6:23 AM

Jeremy Albert Best is accused of killing his pregnant wife and fleeing with their infant child, wh...

Jeremy Albert Best is accused of killing his pregnant wife and fleeing with their infant child, who was later found dead.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho man accused of killing his pregnant wife and fleeing with their infant child who was later found dead will be given a mental health evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial, a magistrate judge said Monday.

Jeremy Albert Best, of Victor, Idaho, is being held without bond, charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutors say he shot and killed his wife, Kali Randall Best, on Thursday. She was about 6 months pregnant. The second murder charge is for the death of the fetus.

Jeremy Best, 48, was arrested Saturday after hunters reported a man in a sleeping bag on the side of the road in eastern Idaho. The body of the couple’s 10-month-old son Zeke was found nearby.

The defendant appeared in court via video from jail. He seemed distraught at times during the short hearing, frequently covering his face and tugging on his hair. He was muted for much of the proceeding, but at one point interrupted the judge to ask what charges he faced and later to say, “that’s not my attorney,” referring to his court-appointed defender.

When the murder charges were read, he covered his face and appeared to cry.

Prosecuting attorney Bailey Smith asked that Best be held without bond, saying the deaths were arguably the most horrific crimes committed in recent history in Teton County.

Best has not been charged in the death of 10-month-old Zeke. Investigators are awaiting autopsy results to determine how the child died.

The defendant has not yet had the opportunity to enter a plea, and Magistrate Judge Jason Walker ordered that he be given a mental evaluation to determine if he is competent to assist in his own defense. Best’s court-appointed defense attorney, Jim Archibald, did not immediately respond to voice messages and emails requesting comment.

Best’s first encounter with law enforcement officers on Thursday happened several hours before Kali Randall Best’s death was discovered. The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responding to a disturbance found Best walking naked through the Swan Valley General Store just before noon. They called an ambulance that took him to a regional hospital for medical and mental health evaluations, but he was released afterward.

At 11:40 p.m., the Teton County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call from Best’s home in Victor. When they arrived, they found Kali Jean Randall’s body and issued an Amber alert asking the public to look for baby Zeke, warning that they believed Best to be armed and dangerous.

On Friday, the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office issued a news release with more details about the encounter at the general store, saying they sent Best for evaluation because there was no indication as to whether his behavior “would continue, escalate, pause, change or stop.”

While the sheriff’s office said it didn’t know what happened at the hospital, they credited the staff there for having “appropriately” cared for people with similar issues “to the best of their ability, as much as patients and family members will cooperate.”

Police arrested Best on Saturday after the hunter’s call about a man in a sleeping bag on the roadside about 24 miles (39 kilometers) east of Idaho Falls. Officers located Best’s car in an embankment and found the 10-month-old baby dead at the scene, the office said in a news release.

Kali Randall Best, 38, was a silversmith, making and selling jewelry through her business, Kalico Forest. Its website included occasional posts about her family, pets and her love of the mountains.

“I am made up of tiny summit flowers, pushing through the rocky crust in the most desolate of places. Persistent and beautiful,” she wrote about climbing a mountain last April.

In a statement, Kali Randall Best’s family asked for privacy to process and grieve, EastIdahoNews.com reported on Sunday.

“We thank all of you for walking with us during this time. Our Zeke is now at rest with his loving mama and unborn sibling,” Brian Randall wrote on the family’s behalf.

Prosecutors have not yet said if they intend to seek the death penalty in the case.

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Mental evaluation ordered for Idaho man charged with murder in shooting death of his pregnant wife