Judge postpones Dean murder trial

September 11, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Howard County judge has postponed the capital murder trial of Smith Harper Dean III this month so mental health evaluations can be performed to determine the defendant's insanity and competency pleas, his lawyer said yesterday.

Dean, 39, of Hampstead is charged with two counts of homicide in the shotgun slayings of Sharon Lee Mechalske, 38, of Hampstead and Kent Leonard Cullison, 30, an Arcadia mail carrier, in June 1997. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Originally scheduled for June 15, Dean's trial was postponed NTC until Sept. 28 after he attempted suicide in a Carroll County jail cell June 10.

After surviving a near-lethal dose of a prescription medication that he had horded, Dean was transferred to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup.

Court records show that Dean had been at Perkins in December and was returned to the Carroll County jail after being found competent to stand trial.

M. Gordon Tayback, a Baltimore attorney representing Dean, said yesterday that Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr., administrative judge for Howard County, has agreed to postpone the trial.

At Dean's request, the trial was moved from Carroll County because of pretrial publicity. Tayback filed a new plea on behalf of Dean last week, saying his client was not guilty, not criminally responsible by reason of insanity and not competent to stand trial.

Relatives of Mechalske said soon after her death that she had broken up with Dean because he was possessive and jealous.

Pub Date: 9/11/98

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