Hearing delayed for dad accused of strangling girls

Columbia

July 12, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A preliminary hearing for a 44-year-old Columbia banker charged with killing his two preschool-age daughters last month was delayed yesterday to give mental health professionals more time to determine if he is competent to stand trial.

During a brief appearance in Howard District Court yesterday, an attorney for Robert Emmett Filippi said that officials at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital were evaluating his client and would need more time to assess whether he will be able to assist in his defense.

"It's a serious case," Filippi's attorney, James B. Kraft, said later. "Everyone wants to make sure that Mr. Filippi is competent to assist in his defense. If he is not, there is no way we can go forward."

No new date for the probable cause proceeding had been scheduled by late yesterday.

Filippi, who was amid a divorce and custody dispute with his estranged wife, Naoko Nakajima, at the time, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the strangling of 4-year-old Nicole Filippi and her 2-year-old sister, Lindsey, on June 9.

The girls were discovered in an upstairs bed in their Harmel Drive home with ropes around their necks. They were later pronounced dead at Howard County General Hospital.

Committed to hospital

Robert Filippi was committed to Perkins the next day after authorities questioned his competency. Filippi, a banker with a Washington-based World Bank affiliate, had rope marks around his neck and small hemorrhages all over his head -- signs of an attempt to hang himself -- when police arrived on the scene, authorities said.

He remains at Perkins under suicide watch, Kraft said.

While the criminal case was placed in a legal limbo yesterday, a Howard Circuit Court hearing in the couple's divorce case has been scheduled for Aug. 2 before Judge Diane O. Leasure.

Financial matters

At issue in that case are financial and procedural matters -- both related to the killings, according to new court filings.

A week after the killings, Nakajima's attorney, William G. Salmond, filed papers asking Leasure to freeze the couple's marital assets -- and to bar him from using them in his criminal defense.

Counter motion

Last week, Kraft countered with a motion asking Leasure to "stay" the divorce case, noting continuing questions about Filippi's competency as well as concerns that his client's constitutional right to remain silent may be violated if he is deposed or called to testify in the civil matter.

Even finance-related questions would be problematic because prosecutors have subpoenaed Filippi's financial records, he said.

"Even if he would be deemed competent, he still can't testify," Kraft said.

Kraft's motion asks Leasure to "strike" Salmond's request to freeze the assets, saying the motion was improperly filed.

Salmond did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday.

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