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Pasco man accused of killing sister competent for trial, report says

A 29-year-old Pasco man accused of killing his younger sister in June does not have a mental disease and is competent to stand trial, according to a state psychologist's report.

Aaron Velasco may be depressed while sitting in the Franklin County jail, but he has the capacity to understand court proceedings and help the defense in his second-degree murder case, Randall Strandquist wrote in a six-page report.

Karla Kane, Velasco's attorney, acknowledged Tuesday having received the report about her client's evaluation at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake. But Kane said she needed time to read it and decide how to proceed.

He is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with allegedly using a machete to repeatedly strike his sister at the family's Glendive Court home.

Magdalena Velasco-Garcia, 22, was found dead in a neighboring driveway June 9. An autopsy found that she died of severe blood loss from sharp force trauma to her head, torso, arms and legs.

Prosecutors state that Aaron Velasco called 911 and reported that he had killed his sister.

Velasco has not yet entered a plea in the case because Kane immediately requested a mental evaluation. She said he had been withdrawn, depressed, incoherent and nonresponsive while visiting him in jail.

A trial date will be set once the court determines that Velasco is competent.

According to the Eastern State Hospital report, Velasco joined the Army after high school "because he wanted to be part of a group, to have a sense of belonging." He said he was teased for being too short and too small, so after completing basic training he was placed in the reserves and decided "that he no longer wanted to be enlisted," the report said.

At the time of the crime, Velasco lived with his parents, where his mother cooked and cleaned for him and reportedly didn't expect him to do any chores around the house. He worked as a janitor and paid $200 in rent a month to his parents.

Velasco claimed that after his arrest, "he had a brief experience in jail of hearing the voice of his sister singing to him but this went away after four days, without the aid of medications," the report said.

He did appear depressed during his evaluation, which Strandquist didn't find to be "a gross overreaction to his situation considering the severity and implications of the crime."

Strandquist also told the court he believes if Velasco is convicted of the charge, he "is likely a substantial danger to other persons."

Also Tuesday, Kane presented an order to Judge Cameron Mitchell for appointment of co-counsel on the case. Kane said she already had made the request to the Office of Public Defense of Benton and Franklin counties and got approval.

Mitchell signed the order adding Sal Mendoza Jr. to the defense team.

Velasco will return to court Sept. 6.

Pasco woman charged in death not examined

A Pasco woman charged in the March death of her mother has not yet been evaluated by state psychologists, nearly a month after the order was signed.

Tashia L. Stuart, 38, briefly appeared in court.

Defense lawyer Bob Thompson informed the judge that his client has not gone to Eastern State Hospital or had psychologists visit her in jail to complete the mental health exam.

Stuart is charged with first-degree murder with a firearm enhancement, along with a number of aggravating circumstances like deliberate cruelty to the victim.

Her mother, Judy Hebert, was found dead March 3 in her west Pasco home after being shot in the chest. The two women reportedly had been arguing about an unauthorized withdrawal of $300 from Hebert's bank account.

Prosecutor Shawn Sant brought the order before the court July 19 for a mental health evaluation based on a jail nurse's request.

Stuart is back in court Tuesday for a status hearing.

Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com

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