Court hits roadblock in stabbing case

WOODSTOCK – The fate of an Edinburg teen accused of stabbing a mother and her daughters in May 2017 remains uncertain.

WOODSTOCK – The fate of an Edinburg teen accused of stabbing a mother and her daughters in May 2017 remains uncertain.

Samual Jacob Homer appeared in Shenandoah County Circuit Court on Wednesday via video conferencing from the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail. Homer, 19, stands charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of aggravated malicious wounding and five counts of possession of child pornography.

Authorities accused Homer of attacking a woman and her two young daughters on May 18, 2017. A grand jury indicted Homer on the five felonies on Oct. 11, 2017. A grand jury indicted Homer on the child pornography charges, also felonies, on July 12, 2017.

Peter McDermott of the public defender’s office represents Homer as his legal counsel. The court has appointed Woodstock attorney Michael Araj as Homer’s guardian through the civil commitment process.

Judge Clark A. Ritchie signed an order dated Sept. 26 that noted Homer has an intellectual disability and needs training and rehabilitation. A psychologist and the Northwestern Community Services Board in Front Royal declared Homer “unrestorably incompetent.” The court had previously determined Homer incompetent to stand trial and ordered that he undergo treatment to restore his  competency.

Retired Judge Dennis L. Hupp said at the review hearing Wednesday that he received a report from Central State Hospital on whether or not Homer qualified for admission into a training center as allowed by Virginia law. Hupp said that the report states Homer is not a suitable candidate for the training center or “doesn’t need the training in that type of restrictive environment.”

The court faced three options, Hupp said. The court can release Home from incarceration; put him into the training center or order him involuntarily committed into state custody. The training center likely is no longer an option, Hupp noted.

“Quite frankly, I don’t know what to do with this case,” Hupp said.

McDermott said he talked to the doctor who recommended Homer undergo the evaluation for entry into the training center.

Araj said another option —  through the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health Services — is Regional Education Assessment Crisis Services Habilitation or REACH, a 24-hour, 7-day a week program for adults, youth and children with developmental disabilities served by the area community services board.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley said she and the defense anticipated that Homer would qualify and enter the training center. Wiseley said she learned Friday of the determination that Homer did not qualify or need the services of the training center.

“So there is a huge concern by the commonwealth as to the safety of the community,” Wiseley said.

Hupp said he didn’t know that much about the case but noted that Homer’s release did not look like a viable option, given the nature of the charges.

“In this situation, they talk about the safety concerns they would have at the training center,” Wiseley added.

Hupp asked if the court could order Homer into the training center even if the defendant does not belong in the facility. McDermott said his position is “no.”

“The commitment statute for the training center says he must be evaluated positively by (Department of Behavioral Health Services) in order to place him in the training center,” McDermott said.

Hupp told Wiseley and McDermott that the court would need to hold a hearing on the matter and call the experts involved in the evaluation to testify. Hupp also suggested that Judge Ritchie preside over such a hearing, given his experience with the case.

McDermott asked that the court hold the hearing sooner rather than later.

“Mr. Homer is essentially held in solitary confinement for no reason other than he is intellectually disabled,” McDermott told the judge. “While I understand the commonwealth’s position, he’s also held in a place that is detrimental to his mental health, and he’s just not competent to understand what is going on.”

Ritchie’s Sept. 26 order states that the appropriate action in Homer’s case is commitment of the defendant to the training center pending the center’s approval under the state code section. Ritchie ordered the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services as well as Northwestern Community Services to evaluate Homer to determine the suitability of his admission to the training center. The judge found that Homer required emergency admission to the training center.

State code allows the court to certify anyone with an intellectual disability for admission into a training center through the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services when he or she cannot request admission voluntarily. Certification allows a parent, guardian or other responsible person to admit the defendant to a training center. Certification does not mean the court orders a judicial commitment for involuntary admission, the code states.

McDermott said at a hearing in the court last year before Hupp that a competency examination showed Homer has an IQ in the low 50s and that the defendant is not competent to stand trial. The exam did indicate his competency might be restorable. McDermott asked the court to order competency restoration services to begin on an outpatient-basis through the Northwestern Community Services Board while Home remains incarcerated at the RSW Regional Jail.