Prosecutor asks for another evaluation of homicide suspect

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Nico Savidge
Tuesday, October 1, 2013

RACINE--A special prosecutor has asked a Rock County judge to reopen the homicide case against a Racine County man days after he was found fit to stand trial in another jurisdiction.

Keith Abbott, 49, formerly of Palmyra, was charged with killing 33-year-old Kristin Miller and hiding her body in rural Rock County in 2011, according to court documents.

After a series of doctors' evaluations to see if Abbott could understand the proceedings and assist in his defense, however, Judge Ken Forbeck found mental illnesses had rendered Abbott unfit to stand trial.

Forbeck dismissed the charges against Abbott in February, and the case was closed.

On Monday, however, a Racine County judge ruled Abbott is competent to proceed in a different felony case in that court, online records show.

In light of that finding, Racine County Assistant District Attorney Randall Schneider filed a motion in Rock County Court on Tuesday asking Forbeck to reopen the case against Abbott.

Schneider, who was appointed as a special prosecutor in Abbott's 2011 case, requested that Forbeck order another evaluation to see if Abbott is fit to stand trial for Miller's murder.

A hearing for Schneider's motion has been scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 22.

Forbeck dismissed charges of first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse after a doctor testified Abbott suffered from depression, anxiety, psychosis and dissociative amnesia. Conversion disorder, which is a physical expression of his distress, led to a tremor in Abbott's hand and made him rock in his courtroom seat.

Forbeck ordered Abbott returned to a mental health institute for treatment.

“I think he's very close,” Forbeck told The Gazette in February. “I think within a few months he is going to move forward as a competent person.”

Days after the hearing in Rock County Court, Racine County prosecutors filed more charges against Abbott, this time for possession of child pornography for files authorities found on his computer while investigating the homicide, according to court documents.

Racine County Judge Timothy Boyle ordered competency evaluations for Abbott this spring to see if he was able to stand trial in that case.

A doctor's report found he was, and Boyle agreed at a Monday hearing, according to court documents.

Abbott's Racine County case will continue with a preliminary hearing Oct. 9, court records show.

If Forbeck grants Schneider's motion and orders another evaluation, the next step would be to hold a hearing for Forbeck to rule if Abbott is fit to proceed.

Should Forbeck come to the same conclusion Boyle reached Monday, the case against Abbott would pick up where it left off when the issue of his competency was raised more than two years ago.

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