In what officials call an apparent suicide attempt, a Salinas man accused of murdering his mother is recovering from severe head injuries after falling from a second-floor jail tier Sunday.
Officials said Christopher Sorenson, 30, has been taken off a respirator and remained in stable condition Monday, one day after he went head-first over the jail railing.
Sorenson's fall or leap occurred during his hourly exercise period, shortly before noon, officials said.
Jail Chief Jeff Budd said Sorensen appeared to be doing fine late last week.
"Then he comes out and jumps on the second tier railing and goes over head first," Budd said.
Sorensen landed on his head and shoulders on the floor 20 feet below. Jail medical staff gave him first aid before he was taken by helicopter to an out-of-town trauma hospital.
Sorenson's hospitalization and recovery will indefinitely delay his trial and a Tuesday hearing to set a trial date will be postponed, said Steve Liner, Sorenson's attorney.
Liner said he expects his client to remain hospitalized for weeks, if not longer.
Sorenson has suffered from mental health problems for years, court records show, but at times appeared to do well when medicated.
After his December 2011 arrest in connection with the beating death of his mother, 71-year-old Janet "Nene" Sorenson, court proceedings were delayed for months when he was found mentally unfit to stand trial.
He was treated for several months at Atascadero State Hospital, found competent, and returned to the jail. In recent court appearances, his neat appearance and quiet demeanor contrasted sharply with frequent court outbursts earlier this year, when he was also charged with assaulting a deputy in the jail.
Until his fall on Sunday, jail officials said he has appeared calm and stable since his return from Atascadero, noting that his once filth-caked cell was cleaner and his appearance orderly.
But Budd has repeatedly said his facility is not equipped to treat severe mental illness.
Sorenson's history shows a troubled man who has been unable to stick with court-ordered mental health treatment programs. The county tried twice last year to have Sorenson involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, but he was found competent after two jury trials.
Before his mother's death, he was hospitalized while he awaited his second trial to determine if he was gravely mentally disabled, court records show. Shortly after the jury found him competent, he was back in court on a drawn-out misdemeanor case and released on his own recognizance on Dec. 2, 2011.
Janet Sorenson was last seen alive five days later.
Sorenson was arrested Dec. 16 after a Monterey Police officer recognized his license plate number from a "be on the lookout" alert about his missing mother.
When police impounded and examined the van, they found large blood stains on the carpet. The blood was Janet Sorenson's. Her body was discovered Dec. 31 down a steep embankment off Highway 129 in San Benito County.
Meanwhile, a court battle over records from Sorenson's mental health trials continues.
Judge Mark Hood in April granted part of a request filed by The Herald and The Salinas Californian for access to sealed transcripts from the trials.
Unlike some other California counties, Monterey County routinely seals files of mental health proceedings.
The Herald argued that because courtroom doors were open and spectators allowed to enter, the trials were public and transcripts should not be sealed.
Prosecutors filed a similar request for different reasons, presumably seeking evidence of competency to counter an insanity defense.
Public defenders appealed Hood's ruling on privacy grounds, and last month the District Attorney's Office asked the appeals court to quickly issue a decision, because Sorenson's trial date was rapidly approaching.
The Sixth District Court is now awaiting oral arguments in the appeal.
Julia Reynolds can be reached at 648Ð1187 or email@example.com.