Report: Accused murderer mentally incompetent

Claude Shafer Jr.

WOODSTOCK — Claude Shafer Jr., charged with capital murder in the death of an Edinburg woman, is mentally unfit to participate in a trial until he undergoes treatment to remedy his affliction, a mental health examiner has concluded.

Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp read the examiner’s findings in a brief hearing Wednesday in Shenandoah County Circuit Court. Hupp set another hearing for 3 p.m. April 22 to allow the prosecution to respond to the report, which was undertaken at the behest of Shafer’s attorneys.

“I have read the report, and the examiner is of the opinion that [Shafer] is incompetent to stand trial and should receive treatment to restore competency,” Hupp said.

The identity of the examiner and details of the examination were not disclosed, and the finding of incompetence is not legally binding. Only Hupp can issue a ruling declaring that Shafer’s mental condition bars him from standing trial.

Shafer, 37, of Edinburg, could be sentenced to death if he is convicted of capital murder. He has been jailed since June 2013 after authorities arrested him and accused him of fatally stabbing and robbing Phyllis Kline, 65, of 14887 Old Valley Pike in her Edinburg home.

Hupp granted a motion in January by defense attorneys Edward Ungvarsky and Timothy Coyne asking that they be allowed to hire a psychologist to examine Shafer at a cost of up to $6,000.

Ungvarsky and Coyne at the time said they wanted to determine whether Shafer understood questions asked of him by law enforcement officials, and whether he knew enough about his Miranda rights when he waived them after his arrest.

Ungvarsky cited what he called an “intellectual disability” that may have hindered Shafer’s ability to make a completely voluntary decision to waive his Miranda rights. Ungvarsky said he had received an expert opinion that concluded Shafer had an IQ of 75, 25 points below what is considered average on the majority of IQ tests.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com