By Pat Caldwell
VALE — The fate of Tony Montwheeler could be decided soon in a court hearing that will consider the latest evaluation of the man’s mental health status.
Montwheeler is accused of kidnapping and murdering Annita Harmon, an ex-wife, and killing David Bates and injuring Jessica Bates in a collision while eluding police in January.
Malheur County District Attorney Dave Goldthorpe said Montwheeler underwent a court-mandated psychiatric evaluation last month at the Oregon State Hospital. The purpose was to determine if Montwheeler is fit to stand trial.
Montwheeler was transported to the state hospital August 31 and evaluated September 1.
Montwheeler’s attorney, David Falls of Lake Oswego, said last week that he wouldn’t discuss his client’s evaluation.
“I think that is kind of privileged information,” said Falls.
Goldthorpe said a hearing would be scheduled once he gets the results of the state examination.
That hearing would be conducted before a new judge assigned to handle the case. Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Tom Ryan takes over the case after a state judge in La Grande concluded he didn’t have time or experience for such a complex case. The two state judges in Malheur County aren’t participating because of past dealings with Mont wheeler as prosecutors.
At the next hearing, Ryan will decide whether Montwheeler can help his defense team and proceed to trial or instead send him to the state hospital for treatment.
In June, Malheur County Senior Circuit Judge Patricia Sullivan ordered Montwheeler be examined after she found “there is reason to doubt defendant’s fitness to proceed.”
Montwheeler was judged guilty but insane in 1997 in the kidnapping of his first wife and son in Baker City. He was put under the control of the state Psychiatric Security Review Board, and over the next 20 years was treated at the state hospital and in the community.
The board released Montwheeler from state custody last December after he claimed he had faked his mental illness from the start to avoid serving a prison sentence. A state doctor told the board he could find no evidence in state files that Montwheeler had exhibited symptoms of insanity.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.