Mental competency hearing denied for teen murder suspect

A judge denied a request to evaluate the teenager accused of shooting an elderly couple last month to consider whether he is mentally competent to stand trial.

Judge Deborah Tinsley said in a Dec. 13 hearing in Louisa Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court that there is nothing in the youth’s record prior to the shooting that indicates he has mental health issues.  

“There was no indication from [the boy’s] father that he had any concerns about the young man’s mental health … and there’s no indication of any special education services at [his] school,” Tinsley said.

The suspect was arrested on Nov. 12 and charged with the attack on Roger Payne, 83, and his wife Nancy outside a house on South Spotswood Trail (Route 33) near Gordonsville. Roger Payne was killed and his wife seriously injured. 

Authorities said the youth used a sawed-off shotgun to shoot the victims. Afterwards, he allegedly stole the Paynes’ car and drove toward Lynchburg. He was stopped by police in Nelson County a few hours later.

Louisa Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty McGuire indicated during the court hearing he wants the suspect tried as an adult. With that in mind, the youth’s attorney, Richard Harry, tried to schedule a preliminary hearing, but Tinsley said she would not schedule it yet because the results of Roger Payne’s autopsy are not yet available.

McGuire said “there were no red flags from [the suspect’s] social history to indicate competency issues.” 

However, a probation officer in Orange County did order a mental health evaluation earlier this year after the boy’s father, Andre Dickerson, said his son had not been acting normally, McGuire said. Dickerson said his son’s behavior seemed to change after his grandmother died. 

It’s unclear when the evaluation was supposed to occur; McGuire said communication was poor between Dickerson and the Orange County court services unit. He said a court official in Orange wanted Dickerson to enroll the suspect in counseling classes.

“According to the probation officer, the court services unit [connection] to the father’s phone was blocked,” McGuire said.

Dickerson said last month that “the probation people never even called me back” after he requested mental health services for his son.

The suspect’s next detention hearing, which is required every 21 days, was scheduled for Jan. 3, 2020.

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