Next step in Montwheeler case hinges on signature

By Pat Caldwell

The Enterprise

VALE – The effort to secure a new psychiatric examination for Anthony W. Montwheeler, 49, now hinges on a signature from a judge.

Malheur County District Attorney David Goldthorpe filed the motion for the procedure April 28. Goldthorpe’s motion came on the heels of Montwheeler saying through his attorney that he may assert an insanity defense to his pending criminal charges.

“The judge has to review it and sign the order and if he wants a hearing before he signs then we will have to go and explain it,” Goldthorpe said Thursday.

Once the order is signed by a state judge, Goldthorpe said, the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Hospital will coordinate transporting Montwheeler for the examination. Goldthorpe said by law, Montwheeler can stay no more than 30 days for the examination.

After the evaluation, Goldthorpe will receive the report as will the state judge and Montwheeler’s defense team. The report won’t be public, Goldthorpe said.

“We will look at the report and see what it says. If it says he is insane now and was then, typically we’d seek to get another evaluation by a private doctor to confirm that,” said Goldthorpe.

The defense, he said, will also seek its own evaluation of their client, though it hasn’t ordered one yet, Goldthorpe said. Montwheeler’s attorney, David Falls of West Linn, earlier filed legal paperwork indicating his client may assert the insanity defense.

Montwheeler is now lodged in the Malheur County Jail and faces charges of aggravated murder, kidnapping and assault. He is accused of kidnapping and stabbing to death an ex-wife, Annita Harmon, and killing David Bates of Vale and injuring his wife Jessica in a collision during a police pursuit on Jan. 9.

Montwheeler underwent a similar evaluation in 1997 in the wake of an incident in Baker County where he successfully contended an insanity defense to charges he kidnapped his then-wife and son. A state hospital doctor concluded Montwheeler could be tried, but a later evaluation by a psychiatrist hired by Montwheeler’s attorney said otherwise.

As a result, Montwheeler successfully defended by the Baker County charges by asserting an insanity defense. He subsequently spent nearly 20 years under the control of the state Psychiatric Security Review Board. Records obtained from the board showed that state hospital physicians suspected early on that Montwheeler was faking his mental illness and he admitted that was the case last December.

Montwheeler’s return to the state hospital raises questions about how his evaluation will be done. Hospital records released to the Malheur Enterprise by the Security Review Board showed he had been treated by a string of professionals for mental illness. They repeatedly concluded Montwheeler was mentally ill. Last November, however, Dr. Mukesh Mittal, a state psychiatrist, concluded Montwheeler had never shown symptoms of mental illness and that he didn’t qualify for control by the Security Review Board.

Authorities at the Oregon State Hospital and the Oregon Health Authority have declined to discuss the Montwheeler case or make Mittal available for interviews because of patient confidentiality laws.