The 82-year-old Kerens man accused of fatally shooting his wife in February has been found not competent to stand trial.
Randolph County Circuit Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong announced her ruling on Theodore Yeager Newlon's competency Thursday in Randolph County Circuit Court. Wilfong heard testimony on the issue at a special evidentiary hearing Dec. 7, but deferred delivering her decision until Thursday.
Newlon was indicted in June on one count of murder and one count of wanton endangerment following the fatal Feb. 6 shooting of 69-year-old Dora Lee Newlon in his home.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Katie Kuba
Theodore Yeager Newlon sits in Randolph County Circuit Court Thursday awaiting a hearing before Judge Jayme Godwin Wilfong on whether or not he is competent to stand trial for the fatal shooting of his wife.
Although court-appointed neuropsychiatrist Dr. Bobby Miller made the preliminary finding that Newlon was not competent to stand trial, Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker objected to that finding and retained neuropsychologist Dr. Steven Cody to conduct an additional evaluation.
In response to Parker's objection, Wilfong asked that the four mental health professionals who had evaluated Newlon present their findings at the Dec. 7 evidentiary hearing.
Three of the four evaluators Miller, Cody and psychologist Dr. Robert Rush deemed Newlon not competent to stand trial, while one psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Adamski reached the opposite conclusion. At the Dec. 7 hearing, Miller said he's diagnosed Newlon with delirium, epilepsy (seizure disorder) and a rare form of dementia known as frontal-temporal lobe dementia.
"At this time, the preponderance of evidence shows he's not competent to stand trial," Wilfong announced at Thursday's hearing. However, Wilfong said she felt the issue of restorability the question of whether or not Newlon could be restored to competency warranted further examination. Wilfong ordered that Newlon be re-evaluated by all four mental health professionals and set a second evidentiary hearing on the issue of restorability for 1 p.m. Feb. 8.
Parker and Newlon's attorney, James Hawkins, were given a chance to argue their cases prior to Wilfong's ruling. Parker argued that although the state had "a large hill to overcome number-wise," the single evaluator who declared Newlon competent Adamski, the psychiatrist had met with Newlon on the most occasions.
Hawkins, however, countered that Adamski's conclusions were based only on mental status evaluations and not extensive psychological testing employed by the other evaluators.
"I think Dr. (Steven) Cody put it best when he said that Mr. Newlon demonstrates some features of competency, but the only way to really tease that out is through testing," Hawkins said. "Obviously, I can't be called as a witness in this case, but I do not feel that this gentleman can assist me assist him in this case. Mr. Newlon, clearly by a preponderance of the evidence, is not competent and not likely to be restored to competency in the foreseeable future."
Upon announcing her ruling, Wilfong made a number of notations for the record, including the fact that none of the expert witnesses had testified that they believed Newlon was malingering, or faking, mental illness.
"In fact, I believe one of the experts testified that if he (Newlon) was faking, he was the most brilliant malingerer he had ever seen," Wilfong said.
The judge also noted that, according to expert witness testimony, Newlon was capable of eating, bathing and dressing himself; has demonstrated goal-directed behavior; and is not being treated for any mental illness at Sharpe Hospital other than age-related cognitive decline.
"He has a general understanding of the courtroom, by virtue of the fact that he consistently referred to the judge as female," Wilfong said.
Hawkins objected to the question of Newlon's restorability being left open. He additionally requested that Miller and Cody the neuropsychiatrist and the neuropsychologist perform diminished capacity, or criminal responsibility, evaluations on Newlon to see if the results of those tests might factor into Newlon's defense.