Montwheeler fitness report goes to judge

The Enterprise

VALE – A long-anticipated report has been filed on the mental fitness of Anthony Montwheeler, who faces charges in the deaths of two people in January 2017.

However, officials are not releasing the results of that 37-page evaluation, filed Jan. 11.

Malheur County District Attorney David Goldthorpe said he can’t disclose the findings, and the Malheur County Circuit Court said state and federal laws prohibit the released of the report.

Goldthorpe said Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Tom Ryan, who is hearing the case, must have time to review the evaluation and then will issue rulings based on his conclusions.

The court last year ordered the evaluation to determine if Montwheeler has the mental capacity to aid in his defense. If state doctors conclude he is fit, he will be scheduled to enter a plea. If found unfit, he would be sent back to the Oregon State Hospital for treatment until he is fit.

The next hearing in the case is set for 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23. In December, the court scheduled his trial for September 2019.

Meanwhile, the family of Annita Harmon seeks at least $2.5 million from Oregon state officials for releasing Montwheeler, Annita Harmon’s ex-husband, from the Oregon State Hospital.

Harmon died in January 2017, stabbed to death in Ontario after she was kidnapped near her home in Weiser.

Montwheeler, is charged with aggravated murder and faces the death penalty.

He also is charged with aggravated murder for the death of David Bates, a Vale man killed in a highway crash that morning as police sought to stop Montwheeler. Bates’ wife, Jessica, was injured.

Montwheeler had been discharged from the state hospital after he asserted he had been faking his mental illness.

He was judged guilty but insane in 1997 for the kidnapping of his first wife and their son.

State officials released Montwheeler in December 2016 after a state psychiatrist concluded he wasn’t mentally ill. He had been treated off and on at the state hospital for nearly 20 years.

Portland attorney David Paul filed the claim, a tort notice, with state officials. Such filings give the state a chance to address claims before a lawsuit.

Paul’s notice took aim at the state Psychiatric Security Review Board, which had jurisdiction over Montwheeler after he was judged criminally insane. That board, acting on recommendations from state hospital officials, freed Montwheeler from any state control.

“He was discharged despite the protest and warnings of professionals that ‘he will hurt someone.’ This warning was specific and real,” Paul wrote.

Paul said the security review board decided to release him but “this hideous and violent act of homicide could have been prevented.” He said Montwheeler was under no supervision and “the state chose not to warn those in the path of the danger he created.”

Paul said Harmon’s estate would seek $2.5 million in “non-economic damages” and an unspecified amount for economic damages, including burial costs.

The state rejected a claim by Jessica Bates on similar grounds. She sought $5 million from the state. She now intends to sue the state, according to her attorneys