Judge postpones suspect's preliminary hearing on murder, gun charges upon doctor's finding
By Alex Bridges - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Justin Shane Slater is incompetent to stand trial for the June slayings of his brother and ex-girlfriend, a doctor has found.
Slater appeared Monday in Frederick County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for a scheduled preliminary hearing on his charges of first-degree murder and use of a firearm related to the June 10 shooting death of his brother, Gregory Scott Slater Jr.
But one of Slater's two attorneys, public defender Timothy Coyne, told Judge William W. Sharp that a doctor evaluated the defendant and concluded the defendant to be incompetent to stand trial on two counts of capital murder for the deaths of his brother and ex-girlfriend Kayleigh Marie Plamondon.
Coyne asked Sharp to continue Slater's preliminary hearing based on the doctor's conclusion. Frederick County Commonwealth's Attorney Glenn Williamson did not object to Coyne's request, which the judge then granted. Sharp moved Slater's preliminary hearing to Oct. 28.
Coyne told Sharp he received the report last week from Dr. David Rawls, a forensic psychologist, indicating Slater's mental status.
"I would say Dr. Rawls' report creates a reasonable issue," Sharp said.
Slater, 24, formerly of Buffalo Trail, Shawneeland, is charged in Clarke County with capital murder, use of a firearm, breaking and entering into a home at night with intent to commit a felony and credit card theft. Frederick County authorities have charged Slater with a single count of capital murder. Both deaths occurred June 10, according to Slater's indictments.
The maximum penalty for capital murder in Virginia is death.
On Aug. 4, Frederick County Circuit Judge John R. Prosser ordered Slater to undergo a mental evaluation to determine competency to stand trial. Prosser granted the defense counsel's motion and ordered that Rawls evaluate Slater at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center, rather than have the inmate transported to Western State Hospital in Staunton.
Frederick County authorities found Gregory Slater Jr., 28, in his home at 293 Valley Mill Road on June 11, dead from a gunshot wound to the head. The younger Slater was apprehended two days later near Wardensville, W.Va. Slater led authorities to Plamondon's body left in a house in Lost City, W.Va.
Also on Monday, Sharp appointed former capital defense attorney Joseph T. Flood to serve as co-counsel with Coyne on Slater's charges in the lower court.
Outside the courtroom, Williamson said an evidentiary hearing would have to be held on the competency issue.
"I'm not qualified to make any decision [on his competency]," Williamson said when asked whether he thought the doctor's findings were accurate.
The prosecutor did appear surprised that the doctor came to his conclusion less than a month after Prosser had ordered the evaluation.
Coyne said he could not comment on the report's details, only the conclusion. He also would not comment on the time it appeared to take the doctor to reach that conclusion. Coyne said an evidentiary hearing may be scheduled Sept. 14 in Clarke County Circuit Court.
Frederick County Sheriff's Office investigator R.D. Ellinger executed a search warrant at Winchester Medical Center Aug. 6 and seized medical records related to five different visits by Slater to the hospital, including one from June 3 after he had expressed suicidal thoughts followed by statements that someone else "had to die."
Authorities also seized records of Slater's visits on July 3 as well as on April 8, 2007, March 27, 2000, and July 27, 1993, according to the search warrant. The July 3 visit came as a result of an incident at the regional jail during which Slater apparently suffered an injury while being transported from one part of the facility to another. While at the hospital to undergo tests, authorities say Slater tried to escape and disarm the officers, jail officials said. In the affidavit for the search warrant, filed in Winchester Circuit Court, Ellinger states Slater also tried to bite one of the jail officers during the incident.
City authorities have since charged Slater with attempted escape as well as two counts each of assault and battery of the jail officers and attempting to disarm them. Slater is scheduled to appear in the city court Sept. 4. Coyne noted the competency issue likely will come up then as well.