Defendant To Be Tested For Mental Competency

November 17, 1991|By Maria Archangelo | Maria Archangelo,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — A Hampstead man charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife's lover is awaiting evaluation by doctors to determineif he is mentally competent to stand trial.

Charles Albert RhodesJr., of the 800 block of Houcksville Road, is charged with first- and second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Steven E. Rupp.

Public defenders Brian Green and Rick Bernhardt were to argue Thursday that statements Rhodes made to police and evidence seized at the scene of the shooting should be ruled inadmissible.

Instead, Rhodes' attorneys entered a plea that he was not criminally responsible for the shooting and is not competent to stand trial.

Beck orderedRhodes to be examined by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Doctors will render an opinion as to whether Rhodes is criminally responsible for the shooting and if he is competent to stand trial.

Green said medical and psychiatric evaluations of Rhodes led him to enter the plea. He said Rhodes was admitted to a mental health facility following his April preliminary hearing and seemed to be improvinguntil the court date drew near.

As the trial dates came closer, he began to deteriorate, Green said. "Come the morning of the hearing,his mental status had (declined) dramatically," he said.

Rhodes was to be tried Dec. 2. Deputy State's Attorney Edward Ulsch said he does not expect the case to go to trial before February.

If Rhodes is determined to be mentally incompetent, he would be evaluated periodically until he becomes competent. Then he might be prosecuted, Ulsch said.

If Rhodes is found competent to stand trial, there would be a "bifurcated" trial. In the first part, the state would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rhodes shot Rupp.

If Rhodes is convicted, the burden then would shift to the defense, which would have to prove in the second part of the trial that Rhodes was not criminally responsible, the prosecutor said.

If a court found Rhodes not criminally responsible, a judge could commit him to a psychiatric facility.

At the time of the shooting, Rhodes and his estranged wife, Geenie, their two children and Rupp lived together in the Houcksville Road home. Rhodes slept in one room while Rupp and Rhodes' wife slept in another, police say.

According to court documents, Rupp and Geenie Rhodes apparently argued around 9:30 p.m. April 6, with Rhodes coming to his wife's aid.

During the argument, Rhodes hid his 8-year-old son behind a kitchen wall, then shot Rupp twice in the facewith a 20-gauge shotgun, police said.

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