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Man charged in slayings found competent for trial

May 22, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Franklin County judge has found Albert Reid competent to stand trial next month in the slayings of his estranged wife and stepdaughter.

Judge John R. Walker issued the ruling Thursday, clearing the way for Reid's trial to begin June 22.

Reid, 49, of Biglerville, Pa., could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in the Dec. 27, 1996, deaths of Carla Reid, 36, and 14-year-old Deidra Moore. Each was shot in the head while asleep in their Sollenberger Road home near Chambersburg.

Reid is charged with two counts of criminal homicide and one count of burglary. At the time of the slayings, he was awaiting trial on charges in the molestation of Moore.

"We felt Albert may have a psychiatric disorder that makes him unable to cooperate with counsel," Public Defender Robert J. Trambley said Thursday. He and co-counsel Stephen D. Kulla requested the competency hearing last Wednesday because Reid would not give them information to assist in his defense, particularly regarding his past.

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At a Feb. 3 hearing, Reid said he would not reveal information about himself until after the trial. Trambley said then that knowledge of Reid's past could be crucial if he is convicted and a jury has to decide if he gets life in prison or death.

On April 9, Reid was examined by court-appointed psychiatrist Dr. Abram M. Hostetter. In his ruling, Walker wrote that Hostetter found Reid "very difficult, controlling and private, with a quick temper."

Walker said Hostetter found Reid "understands the charges against him ... and he wants to go to trial."

Hostetter and prosecution psychiatrist Dr. Robert Davis both testified that Reid has a personality disorder, but is not psychotic. They said he could cooperate with attorneys if he wanted to.

Defense psychiatrist Dr. Neil Blumberg testified that Reid is delusional and incompetent, in part because of his "belief that his attorneys are conspiring against him," Walker wrote.

From his own experience at previous hearings, Walker wrote that Reid "refuses to provide information about his family and background because he does not want to." Walker wrote he has seen Reid cooperate with his lawyers at times.

Attorney Michael Toms represented Reid in the competency proceedings and objected that the hearing was not held within 20 days of the examination. Toms also argued he was not notified when the hearing was held.

Walker said the 20-day law "did not consider the practical difficulties of scheduling a hearing ... which requires the presence of three busy psychiatrists at the same time."

Walker wrote that while Toms was not present at the examination, Trambley and Kulla were. He also noted that Toms had a transcript of the examination, was present at the hearing and "had an opportunity to cross-examine the experts."

"The only thing I think would delay the trial now would be if we have a change of venue ... based on the publicity of the case," Trambley said.

He said Walker could move the trial out of the county, or bring in a jury from another county, if it was determined that an unbiased jury could not be selected here.

Trambley said there have been no discussions with District Attorney John F. Nelson about a plea bargain and Reid maintains he is innocent.

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