Murder defendant’s medication at RSW still unresolved

Claude Shafer Jr.

WOODSTOCK – The mental health of accused murderer Claude Delmus Shafer Jr. continued to hover over his death penalty case Friday as Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp scheduled a hearing to determine what kind of medication Shafer should be receiving at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.

Hupp scheduled the hearing after prosecution and defense attorneys told him that the jail’s medical staff has refused to prescribe a drug that Shafer had been receiving during a recent stay at Central State Hospital, a drug that had restored the defendant’s ability to stand trial. Hupp scheduled the hearing for 10:30 a.m. Oct. 26.

Hupp said he was puzzled about the jail’s refusal to prescribe a drug that had improved Shafer’s mental condition enough that he could now help his attorneys prepare for a trial in which he faces a possible death sentence.

“It’s perplexing to me as to why there’s an issue here,” Hupp said.

Shafer is accused in the robbery and stabbing death of Phyllis Kline, 65, of 14887 Old Valley Pike, in her Edinburg home on June 13, 2014.

Hupp ordered Shafer sent to Central State, a psychiatric hospital in Petersburg, in late February. Shafer’s attorneys, Edward Ungvarsky and Timothy Coyne, had warned that their client’s mental condition at RSW was deteriorating to the point where he was on the verge of no longer being able to assist in his defense.

Ungvarsky said Shafer suffered from several mental illnesses and was unable to obtain proper medication for his afflictions in the jail. Ungvarsky said jail staff attributed the unavailability of medication to a staffing shortage, the jail running out of the needed medication, and no one on the staff who could obtain the medication from an authorized prescriber.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda McDonald Wiseley did not contest Ungvarsky’s statements about Shafer’s inability to obtain proper medication.

Hupp’s decision to send Shafer to Central State marked the third time a judge had intervened after an RSW inmate had complained of not receiving medication for a mental health problem.

Ungvarsky said at Friday’s hearing that Shafer’s latest trouble over medication at RSW stemmed from a medical staff decision. Shafer has enough medication to last until Nov. 6, when he needs a new prescription.

“The doctors at RSW do not want to write that prescription for whatever the reasons,” Ungvarsky said.

A voice mail phone message seeking comment from RSW jail superintendent William Wilson was not returned.

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