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Competency in question for teen in developer slaying (UPDATE)

Richard Wilson, 17, is escorted into a hearing room May 10 at the Waukesha County Courthouse. Wilson was back in court Thursday for a hearing on his competency to stand trial. He is accused of murdering his grandfather, real estate developer Ron Siepmann, on May 8. (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

Richard Wilson, 17, is escorted into a hearing room May 10 at the Waukesha County Courthouse. Wilson was back in court Thursday for a hearing on his competency to stand trial. He is accused of murdering his grandfather, real estate developer Ron Siepmann, on May 8. (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

The competency of the 17-year-old charged with murdering a Pewaukee developer still is in question after a brief hearing Thursday morning in Waukesha County Intake Court.

The findings of a confidential competency examination performed on defendant Richard Wilson will be discussed during a June 2 court appearance before Judge William Domina.

At that time, Domina is expected to rule on whether Wilson understands the criminal charges or whether he needs additional mental health treatment, said Jennifer Dorow, Wilson’s attorney.

Wilson, a Fox Point resident, is charged with first-degree intentional homicide of his grandfather Ron Siepmann on the property of his town of Merton home. If Wilson is found guilty, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Should Wilson, who has a history of mental illness, be found incompetent, veteran Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer Ray Dall’Osto said that would bring the case to a halt.

“That puts the case on ice until the competency issue is resolved,” he said. “Because going ahead with a preliminary hearing, if there are competency questions, is wasting your time.”

According to the criminal complaint, Martha Wilson said her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia in November. Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel had said Wilson had not been taking his medication near the time of the May 8 murder.

Siepmann, according to the complaint, sustained defensive wounds to his hand and head injuries that apparently came from several blows from an ax, which was found near his body.

In his experience, Dall’Osto said, defendants initially found incompetent often receive court-ordered drug treatment. If the defendant responds to the treatment and is determined to be competent, the trial proceeds.

The alternative, Dall’Osto said, is an extended stay in a mental health institution, rather than prison.

“If someone is not likely to regain competency, then it’s a switch to a longer-term mental health commitment,” said the Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP lawyer. “That could be the equivalent term of life in prison.”

At the Thursday hearing, neither the prosecution nor the defense said they would contest the findings of Wilson’s competency evaluation, which was conducted by Dr. Deborah Collins.

Waukesha criminal defense lawyer Anthony Cotton said it was surprising that neither side challenged the report, given that each is entitled to an independent evaluation.

In cases in which competency of his client was in question, Cotton, of Kuchler & Cotton Law Offices, said there typically was an objection by the prosecution.

“The last case I had involving competency was a low-level felony that went on for years because prosecutors objected and kept insisting on another evaluation,” he said.

Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, who is prosecuting Wilson, declined comment on the case.

On the flip side, Dall’Osto said, defense attorneys have an obligation to acknowledge to the court competency issues with their client before moving forward.

“I think you have the duty as defense counsel to flag those things,” he said.

Dorow, of Huppertz & Dorow SC, in Waukesha declined to reveal details of the competency report, including whether it indicated her client was incompetent to stand trial.

“I wouldn’t read into anything that was done and say, ‘Oh, he must be this,'” she said of the hearing.

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