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W.Va. man charged in son's death ruled incompetent to stand trial

James N. Mauldin is expected to be taken to a psychiatric hospital for treatment in Weston, W.Va.

March 21, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A judge in Berkeley County Circuit Court made a preliminary finding Thursday that one of two people charged in the New Year’s Day death of a 3-year-old boy last year is currently not competent to stand trial.

James N. Mauldin is expected to be taken to a psychiatric hospital for treatment in Weston, W.Va., where 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge John C. Yoder said he expects the defendant to regain competency within the next few months.

Yoder made the ruling after reviewing an evaluation report by Bernard J. Lewis, a forensic evaluator who found that Mauldin was “not competent to proceed to adjudication at this time,” but could possibly regain competency, according to court documents.

Lewis indicated that he didn’t expect Mauldin would regain competency prior to April 1, according to court documents.

Given the competency issue, Yoder granted a motion to continue the trial for Mauldin, 21, and co-defendant Jasmine K. Dawkins, 23. A new date was not set.

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Mauldin and Dawkins were indicted in May 2012 on one count of death of a child by parent, guardian and/or custodian by child abuse, two counts of gross child neglect creating substantial risk of serious bodily injury and one count of presentation of false information regarding a child’s injuries in the death of Kaiwon Connelly.

Mauldin, who is the boy’s father, also was indicted on one count of child abuse causing serious bodily and malicious assault.

Dawkins’ defense attorney Sherman L. Lambert Sr. objected to the continuance motion and argued that his client wished to proceed to trial given the possibility that it might take longer for the competency issue to be resolved.

Lambert noted the court denied a motion that the defendants be tried separately, but argued that additional delay wasn’t fair to his client and those arguments should be reconsidered.

“We don’t know when that’s going to be,” Lambert said.

Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely argued against severing the cases, noting that Dawkins is not incarcerated and the expense of the case for both sides already will be significant.

Attorney Christopher J. Prezioso, who had filed a motion for a competency hearing, told the court that questions concerning Mauldin’s competence surfaced after he apparently had difficulty staying awake during a corresponding abuse and neglect court hearing before 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Michael D. Lorensen.

Police allege that Dawkins, who is not the boy’s biological mother, knowingly allowed Mauldin to inflict injuries on the boy that led to the boy’s death. Both are accused of failing to seek medical care for burns on the child’s buttocks and legs and after knowing that Mauldin struck the boy in the head, according to court documents.

Kaiwon had multiple head injuries, including a fractured skull and brain bleeds, police have said. Dawkins told police the injuries were the result of Mauldin punching the boy several times a few days before the boy was hospitalized.

Police were told the boy was burned with skillets and pans that were heated and placed underneath the child to keep him from sitting on the floor. The boy was expected to remain in a squatted position while being disciplined, police have said.

The boy died on Jan. 1, 2012, at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., after police responded to the couple’s residence at 214 Joshua Drive the day before, according to court documents.

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