A judge Thursday set a jury trial to determine if ex-death row inmate Dennis Stanworth is mentally competent to stand trial for allegedly murdering his mother last year in Vallejo.
Solano County prosecutors asked for the trial after two court-appointed doctors found Stanworth, 71, could not rationally assist his attorney in his defense. Following the brief hearing in Superior Court Judge Robert Bowers' Fairfield courtroom, the trial was scheduled for March 10.
According to court records, Stanworth was diagnosed with dementia and possible Alzheimer's disease connected to a stroke that occurred before his arrest.
However, Deputy District Attorney Karen Jensen said later she believes the defendant is still fit to stand trial because "he recalls the event" in which he allegedly killed his mother.
She added if Stanworth were sent to a state hospital, his mental condition could worsen beyond repair. Under that scenario, she said he could be released back into society after being held for the maximum of three years in the state's competency training program.
Stanworth was arrested Jan. 9 after he called Vallejo police and confessed to killing his mother, 90-year-old Nellie Stanworth, at his Hiddenbrooke-area home.
According to testimony at his preliminary hearing in August, Stanworth told police he hit his mother in the head with a brick and slashed her throat before burying her in his yard.
He later stuffed her decomposing body into a garbage can filled with dirt, police said. Stanworth told police he killed his ailing mother because he was concerned about who would take care of her if he died before she did.
Stanworth was convicted in 1966 of murdering two Pinole girls, one of whom he raped after shooting them both in the head.
Despite pleading for death, he was spared the gas chamber in 1972 after the California Supreme Court ruled capital punishment unconstitutional. His sentence was reduced to life in prison, but he was paroled in 1990 and required to register as a sex offender.
Contact staff writer Tony Burchyns at email@example.com or (707) 553-6831. Follow him on Twitter @tonyburchyns.
©2013 Times-Herald (Vallejo, Calif.)
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