ONTARIO, Ore. — The mental health of a man charged with murder is once again in question after he said he faked mental illness for two decades to stay out of prison in a kidnapping case.
Anthony Montwheeler, 50, was discharged from the state mental hospital in 2016 after telling the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board he had faked mental illness following the 1996 kidnapping of his first wife and son.
He is now charged with aggravated murder after police say he killed a different ex-wife last year after kidnapping her in Idaho. He’s also charged with killing a motorist after the truck he was driving while fleeing police in Oregon collided head-on with another vehicle, authorities say.
Montwheeler pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial next year in Malheur County.
His attorney said in court papers last week that evaluators at Oregon State Hospital have deemed his client mentally unfit to stand trial.
Judge Thomas Ryan is expected to decide by early March whether to send Montwheeler back to the mental hospital for up to 60 days of treatment before a re-evaluation.
State hospital officials submitted a report of their evaluation to the court, but Montwheeler’s attorney, David Falls, has asked Ryan to keep it confidential.
Montwheeler could face the death penalty if convicted.
The incident began in Weiser, Idaho, where his ex-wife Annita Harmon’s car was found abandoned in the middle of a road.
Later, across the state line in Ontario, Oregon, a convenience store clerk reported that a woman in a pickup had been kidnapped and was being stabbed.
Montwheeler’s pickup later crossed a centerline during a police chase and collided with an SUV, killing 38-year-old David Bates, authorities say. Investigators determined the ex-wife died from stab wounds before the crash.
A month earlier, Montwheeler told the review board he faked mental illness in the 1990s because going to the state hospital and, later, outpatient treatment was better than the prison term he could have otherwise received.
“And all I got to do is make myself sound like I’m crazy,” Montwheeler testified, according to the Malheur Enterprise, which obtained a recording of the hearing.