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Singley to get competency test

December 22, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Legal proceedings against a borough man charged with criminal homicide in the deaths of two people last month will be on hold until it is determined whether he is competent to assist in his own defense.

Last Wednesday, Franklin County President Judge John R. Walker granted a defense motion for the psychiatric examination of Michael Brandon Singley, 22, of 1125 E. Brandon Drive. Singley had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing Monday on charges stemming from the Nov. 3 deaths of Christine Rohrer and James Gilliam, both of Chambersburg.

"We want to determine whether he is capable of understanding what is happening to him and assist in his own defense," Public Defender Robert J. Trambley said on Monday. Singley is represented by Trambley and a private co-counsel, Michael J. Toms.

"The District Attorney's Office has represented to counsel that this will likely be a capital case," the defense motion to the court said.

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District Attorney John F. Nelson confirmed he may seek the death penalty against Singley, but his office has not filed notice of aggravating circumstances in the case. He said that's unlikely to happen until a preliminary hearing is held.

No new date has been set for the hearing before District Justice Gary Carter and the defense request for a psychiatric examination could result in proceedings to determine Singley's fitness to stand trial.

The defense motion asked that Singley be examined by Dr. Neil Blumberg, the same defense psychiatrist who examined Albert Reid earlier this year. In October, Reid was convicted of killing his estranged wife and her daughter and sentenced to death by lethal injection.

Nelson said if the examination concludes Singley is not competent to stand trial, he would probably ask the court to have him examined by a prosecution psychiatrist.

That in turn could mean a third examination by a court-appointed psychiatrist, as in the Reid case, Nelson said.

In addition to two counts of criminal homicide, borough police charged Singley with two counts of attempted murder, theft by unlawful taking and criminal trespass. Those charges could be used as aggravating circumstances if prosecutors decide to seek the death penalty.

According to police affidavit of probable cause, Travis Rohrer, 22, of 391 Elder St., returned to his duplex home on the evening of Nov. 3 and was confronted by his cousin, Singley. Rohrer told police Singley stabbed and shot him.

At about 8 p.m. Gilliam, 39, and Deb L. Hock, 33, both of 395 Elder St., returned to the other half of the duplex. At that time a man left the Rohrer's home and fired shots at Gilliam and Hock. Gilliam was killed, but the shooter missed Hock.

The man fled in a Jeep belonging to Travis and 23-year-old Christine Rohrer. She was found stabbed to death in the second-floor bedroom.

Borough police arrested Singley the next day at his home. The Jeep was found about a block away, according to police.

Singley was on a leave of absence from his job in Carlisle, Pa., at the time of the killings. Asked if he had any knowledge of whether Singley had been undergoing treatment for psychiatric problems, Nelson said, "I don't know the details of that."

"I suppose if he pursues his competency proceeding, we would become privy to that information," Nelson said.

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