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Psychiatrist - Man not competent to stand trial

June 29, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A psychiatrist has determined that a Harpers Ferry, W.Va., man charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a bartender at the Cliffside Bar and Grill near Harpers Ferry in December 2006 is not competent to stand trial because of mental illness, attorneys in the case said Thursday.

The competency issue involving James Robert Jones, 26, of 180 Campground Road in Harpers Ferry, came out during a hearing before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr.

Thomas Adamski, a psychiatrist working for defense attorney Aaron Amore, has determined that Jones suffers from schizophrenia, Amore said.

In fact, Jones suffers from the mental illness to a point that Adamski could not get into the issue of criminal responsibility with Jones, Amore said.

Amore added that Adamski is "very conservative" in his findings.

Prosecutors will have the opportunity to have Jones examined by their own psychiatrist, Amore said.

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If the psychiatrist for the state determines that Jones is not competent to stand trial, there can be a "competency restoration" period where an attempt can be made to help Jones regain his competency, Amore said.

Ultimately, it will be Steptoe's decision to determine if Jones is competent to stand trial, Amore said.

"I'm taking a wait-and-see attitude," Assistant Jefferson County Prosecutor Larry Crofford said after Thursday's hearing.

Jones, who was being held without bond at Eastern Regional Jail near Martinsburg, W.Va., was indicted in April on a charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Michael Mihalik.

Jones also was indicted on two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of malicious assault, six counts of wanton endangerment involving a firearm, three counts of shooting at another person in a place of public resort and prohibited person in possession of a firearm, according to Jefferson County Circuit Court records.

A trial for Jones is set for Aug. 7.

Police said a man walked into the bar at the Quality Inn along U.S. 340 on Dec. 2, 2006, about 10 p.m. and opened fire with a 9 mm automatic handgun. Police described the scene inside the bar as "hostile" as patrons overpowered the assailant.

Mihalik, 26, of Harpers Ferry, died after being shot in the chest. Another shooting victim said he heard a "popping" sound, then looked down and noticed blood on his jeans and a hole in his pants.

The third shooting victim was shot in the right calf, according to West Virginia State Police.

State police said they believed Jones knew Mihalik and Mihalik's brother, although a motive for the shootings was not clear.

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