A 31-year-old man whose appearance has deteriorated while on a hunger strike in jail is not suffering from a mental illness and can be tried for a 2008 Pasco murder, a judge ruled Tuesday.
The competency finding in the caseof Ramon Garcia-Morales comes after his brother, his alleged accomplice, was or-dered back to a state facility for more treatment.
Garcia-Morales is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.
Nathan Henry, a psychologist with Eastern State Hospital, told the court there is no new information to support the presence of a mental defect in Garcia-Morales.
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He attempted a fourth evaluation of him in the Franklin County jail on March 9, but said it was brief because Garcia-Morales failed to acknowledge his two lawyers and Henry or make eye contact with any of them.
Garcia-Morales is continuing to malinger, or feign mental issues, so he doesn't have to face the consequences of a trial and potential conviction, Henry said.
Corrections officers have said that Garcia-Morales continues to "use the bathroom independently," which Henry said "reflects a degree of awareness" and rules out debilitations such as catatonic schizophrenia.
He added that even though Garcia-Morales voluntarily is choosing for whatever reason not to eat -- at times getting his nourishment through a feeding tube -- he is not faking his "deteriorating physical presentation," which could lead to other problems.
After listening to Henry's testimony, Judge Vic VanderSchoor said he was going to find Garcia-Morales competent because that was the opinion of the expert. He said he wants to go forward with the June 1 trial date because, "We've been going on with this long enough."
Prosecutors allege that Ramon and Jose Garcia-Morales confronted the victims on Dec. 10, 2008, out of financial desperation because they had lost out on a job in the fields.
Court documents have said Ramon gave Alfredo Garcia the chance to pay at least a part of the "money he had missed out on," then opened fire on the father of four and his wife.
Garcia, 42, died from his wounds. Maria Ramirez de Garcia, 38, was seriously wounded and now uses a wheelchair.
The cases against the two suspects have been put on hold a number of times in the past 21/2 years while defense lawyers questioned their ability to understand and help in the proceedings.
Jose Garcia-Morales, 27, is going back to the Medical Lake facility after Judge Carrie Runge said evidence shows more treatment is needed.
Like his older brother, Jose has been unresponsive and unkempt for months. However, he also urinates and defecates on himself or his cell and lives in it for long periods of time until noticed, according to his attorneys.
On Tuesday, lawyer Kevin Holt questioned if Ramon Garcia-Morales' mental capacity could be affected if he doesn't start caring for his personal needs and remains in a state of malnourishment.
Holt told the court that he asked the Office of Public Defense for money to hire a doctor to review his client's health, but only was approved for $1,500 and told it must be within the region. He said at a minimum they wanted to get blood work on Garcia-Morales so Henry could look at the results.
VanderSchoor said it sounds like the defense really needs a county-designated mental health professional to work with Garcia-Morales. He told Holt to do it if he can get the funding before trial, but said they are going to stick with the trial date.