Questions over a Winton murder defendant’s mental competency forced a judge to suspend criminal proceedings on Friday in Merced Superior Court.
Judge Ronald Hansen ordered further psychiatric evaluations for Rachelle Lynn Hampton. She will return to court Oct. 25 to hear the doctor’s formal report.
“If she is found competent, the matter will be set for trial,” said Walter Wall, deputy district attorney. “If she’s found incompetent, she will be placed in a psychiatric hospital and returned to competency.”
Hampton has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity in the death of 84-year-old Savino Herrera Baiz, who was found shot to death July 23, 2009, in his home at 7614 Fairlane Ave. Investigators said Hampton had been staying with Baiz for some time and they had been arguing before Baiz was killed, according to court records.
Court documents indicate that when investigators asked Hampton if she killed Baiz, she replied that it was possible. She also claimed she was a forensic specialist employed by the FBI with the ability to reattach decapitated heads.
Authorities have not said what they believe Hampton and Baiz were fighting about at the time of his death.
Friday marked the second time since 2009 that doubts have been raised about the 41-year-old woman’s ability to understand the charges against her and her ability to aid her attorney in her defense.
In August 2009, Hampton was deemed unfit to stand trial and hospitalized for more than a year. She returned to face the murder charge again in 2011. The case has also been delayed several times to allow defense attorneys to collect Hampton’s psychiatric records, authorities said.
Eric Dumars, Merced County public defender, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Dumars said in a previous interview that two doctors have determined that Hampton was insane at the time of the death.
Hampton remains in custody at the Merced County Jail in lieu of more than $1 million bail.