UPDATE: Slain Teacher's Wife Reacts To Court Decision
KYTX CBS 19 VIDEO
By DAYNA WORCHEL
A 17-year-old accused of stabbing his John Tyler High School teacher to death more than a year ago is "unfit to proceed" in the legal system and must be sent to Vernon State Hospital for 90 days for further examination by psychiatrists, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Dr. Timothy Proctor, a board-certified forensic psychologist the Smith County District Attorney's Office hired to evaluate Byron Truvia, 17, described the youth as "one of the most dangerous individuals I have ever sat across the table from," prosecutor Tonda Curry said after Wednesday's hearing.
Proctor was referring to Truvia's mental illness, Ms. Curry said.
"His mental illness is so pervasive that it interferes with his intellectual abilities," Ms. Curry said. She added that Truvia's mental problems started when he was 9 years old. Truvia was not present in the courtroom Wednesday.
The Smith County District Attorney's Office hired Proctor to evaluate Truvia, who allegedly stabbed and killed his special education teacher, Todd Henry, at John Tyler in September 2009.
It was Proctor who issued the opinion that Truvia is unfit to proceed and should be sent to Vernon State Hospital.
Defense attorney Jim Huggler said that after the 90-day evaluation period he expects two psychiatrists at Vernon State Hospital will examine his client and issue two medical certificates, which state law requires to commit Truvia to a mental health facility.
Ms. Curry said once the two medical certificates are issued, the Texas Department of State Health Services will send Truvia to a secure facility where his mental health will be re-evaluated each year. The state will determine to which facility Truvia will be sent.
Ms. Curry said that if Truvia is ever found to be competent during one of the evaluations to stand trial for the death of Henry, that he will "absolutely" do so -- even if he is 50 years old.
There is no statute of limitations on murder, Huggler said. "There could still be a trial in the future for Truvia," he said.
Huggler added that before someone can stand trial, he or she must be found competent.
Both the Smith County District Attorney's Office and Huggler filed a joint motion which asked for the court to declare Truvia unfit to proceed.
"He (Truvia) is unable to aid in his own defense because of his severe mental illness," Ms. Curry said after the hearing.
Huggler said after the hearing that he was pleased with the outcome. "My client's mother has been trying to get him help since he was 5 years old," Huggler said.
Geniece Truvia, the youth's sister, said after the hearing that the family supports the decision to keep the teen in a secure mental hospital. "We wanted this from the get-go," Ms. Truvia said.
She said that he never should have been out after he stabbed his sister in 2007. "I think they should have taken him then but they waited two years until he got out and he did this incident."
In deciding whether to try Truvia as an adult, the issue was whether the complete mental diagnostic study was performed according to Texas law.
Huggler had filed three petitions since May -- one with the 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler and two with the Texas Supreme Court -- to stop the attempted transfers to the adult court system which Smith County Court-at-Law No. 3 Judge Floyd Getz had scheduled in his court.
The District Attorney's office also stated in a brief that if Truvia did not receive the required evaluation and convicted in an adult court, his conviction could be overturned.
Truvia's case will be transferred to the Smith County District Court on Tuesday when he turns 18 because the juvenile court will no longer have jurisdiction once he becomes an adult, Huggler said. But he will never be tried as an adult if he is ever found to be mentally competent, Huggler said.
"If he is ever tried it will be with juvenile consequences because he was not certified to stand trial as an adult," he said.
Proctor's report described Truvia's behavior as "delusional," and stated that Truvia "went so far as to say that if he had a knife, he would try to kill the first individual with whom he came in contact." Proctor said in his report that "the only reason he has not acted out in this manner in detention is the absence of a weapon."
Truvia also described hearing voices which told him to harm others, and talked about homicidal thoughts related to hearing "certain types of music," according to the report.
Proctor said in the report that "Byron has a severe mental illness as well as at least borderline intellectual functioning, and possibly, mild mental retardation." Proctor also said psychological testing did not suggest he was exaggerating symptoms.
The report also stated that Proctor "could not rule out the possibility of stabbing his own attorney if given the opportunity." But Proctor added that "these homicidal beliefs do not appear to be directed toward a particular person."
Huggler said that Truvia always treated him with respect "in his own limited fashion."
Jan Henry, Todd Henry's widow, said she was glad about Truvia's commitment to a hospital as long as "he's not out in society to hurt anyone else -- the kid is dangerous and he needs to be where he needs to be," she said.
Ms. Henry said she hopes that Truvia gets the help he needs. "I want people to understand that this is not the end -- I hope that a student like that won't be put in a public school again where he can hurt someone."
KYTX CBS19 contributed to this report.
Updated Thursday, March 17, 2011 at 1:25 p.m. CDT