TWIN FALLS, Idaho — An 87-year-old man accused of fatally shooting a woman in Twin Falls has been deemed unfit to stand trial.
On Monday a judge ruled that Paul Robert Welch is not competent to stand trial because he can’t help his defense. Welch has been ordered to undergo treatment to restore his competency, The Times-News reported (http://bit.ly/2cEChTk).
Welch is accused of killing 81-year-old Barbara Sue Chitwood. Chitwood was found dead from gunshots to her head at the home she shared with Welch on Aug. 21, 2015.
Welch appeared in court Monday for just the second time since February, as a series of errors and miscommunications had delayed his mental competency evaluation.
Monday’s hearing came after a mental health evaluator found that Welch is “not currently competent to help in his defense,” Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said.
Loebs, District Judge Richard Bevan and Welch’s attorney, Keith Roark, hope Welch will be admitted to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s State Hospital South in Blackfoot, where he could receive mental health treatment. That facility, unlike others, has a program to help restore competency of criminal justice patients.
If the hospital does not accept Welch because of his age there is a possibility he could be placed at a Department of Health and Welfare retirement community, which Loebs protested against.
“He would just be housed there and taken care of physically. Both sides agree that is not an appropriate place to put him, the state because it wouldn’t be secure, and I think both of us because he would not get any closer to being competent to stand trial,” he said.
Instead both parties agreed that if he was not placed in the hospital, Welch would be housed as a “dangerously mentally ill person” at the state prison, which does have a mental facility which also works to restore his competency.
Information from: The Times-News, http://www.magicvalley.com