Man found incompetent to stand trial in killing of stepfather

By: 
Daniel Pepper

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

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

Allegan County District Court Judge Joseph S. Skocelas ruled Wednesday, Aug. 30, that Smith would 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.

After the crime, Michigan State Police testified in a probably cause hearing that Smith’s mother told them he’d been sitting in her and he husband’s driveway when they’d woken up. They invited Smith in and he walked upstairs and shot his stepfather.

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

At the competency hearing, Smith appeared via video. His lawyers and Allegan County prosecutors agreed before the hearing Skocelas could determine competency based on a pair of reports written by Dr. Jay Witherell, a clinical psychologist at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry.

Skocelas read from both reports in the courtroom.

The first was dated July 17 and said the psychologist had interviewed Smith and reviewed some handwritten notes Smith 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.

The psychologist wrote that Smith seemed to understand the charges against him and the punishment for them.

“He wouldn’t discuss his recollection of the events on the day in question,” the report stated.

The report said, in the doctor’s 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 handwritten notes written by Smith, the psychologist wrote “....he did feel some of these notes suggested they could be symptoms of a psychiatric nature.”

In conclusion, the doctor concluded Smith was incompetent to stand trial in his current mental state and especially would be unable to effectively assist in his defense.

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

“He appeared to be influenced by voices, recommendation at that time was for hospitalization,” the report stated. “Hospitalization wasn’t possible because of his current charges.”

The report stated that Smith had said the voices he heard scared him.

The psychologist reiterated his opinion that Smith wasn’t competent to stand trial, but that there was a good chance he could be treated until he was competent.

Skocelas ordered the Michigan Forensic Center to update him every 60 days on whether Smith was competent and ordered the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office to transport him to the forensic center, where he’d be confined.

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