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Suspect in stepfather’s murder found incompetent

Suspect in stepfather’s murder found incompetent

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By Daniel Pepper

Staff Writer

A man accused of murdering his stepfather in Glenn has been found incompetent to stand trial.

Tyler Daniel Smith, 27, is charged with open murder and felony firearms in the May 24 death of antique dealer Robert “Mark” Hill at Hill’s home..

Allegan County District Court Judge Joseph Skocelas ruled Aug. 30, that Smith be committed to the Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry for treatment.

“We’ll enter an order finding Mr. Smith is incompetent to stand trial, but there is a possibility he can be treated and become competent within the period specified by state law,” Skocelas said.

Smith’s mother told Michigan State Police after the crime her son had been sitting in her and her husband’s driveway when they had awakened. They invited Smith in; he walked upstairs and shot his stepfather.

When his mother asked him why he’d done it, police said, he didn’t answer.

Smith appeared via video at his competency hearing. His lawyers and county prosecutors agreed beforehand the judge could determine competency based on two reports written by Center for Forensic Psychiatry clinical psychologist Jay Witherell.

Skocelas read from both reports in the courtroom. The first, dated July 17, said Witherell had interviewed Smith and reviewed handwritten notes the suspect had made, but didn’t have access to records.

“Within the formal clinical interview, he became quiet and did not respond to many questions, even when repeated,” the report stated.

Smith seemed to understand the charges against him and punishment for them, the psychologist’s report continued.

“He wouldn’t discuss his recollection of the events on the day in question,” Witherell said, adding in his opinion Smith would do poorly in a courtroom situation because he often seemed to shut down and not interact with the psychologist.

After reading 47 pages of the suspect’s handwritten notes, the psychologist wrote “…. he did feel some of these notes suggested they could be symptoms of a psychiatric nature.”

He concluded Smith was incompetent to stand trial in his current mental state and would be unable to effectively assist in his defense.

The second report dated Aug. 24 included the psychologist reviewing counseling and jail records, plus recordings of phone calls Smith made to his mother.

“He appeared to be influenced by voices; recommendation at that time was for hospitalization,” Witherell’s report stated. “Hospitalization wasn’t possible because of his current charges.” Smith told the psychologist the voices scared him.

Witherell repeated his opinion Smith wasn’t competent to stand trial, but there was a good chance he could be treated until he was competent.

Skocelas ordered the Forensic Center to update him every 60 days on whether Smith was competent and ordered the county sheriff’s office to transport Smith to the center, where he would be confined.