Homicide suspect to have competency hearing

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Nico Savidge
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

JANESVILLE—The homicide case against a Racine County man could be reopened within weeks after a judge Tuesday ordered another hearing to see if the man is fit to stand trial for a 2011 murder.

Keith M. Abbott, 49, was back in Judge Ken Forbeck's court Tuesday, eight months after Forbeck found mental illness rendered Abbott not competent for trial on charges of first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse.

Prosecutors charged Abbott with killing 33-year-old Kristin Miller in January 2011 and dumping her body in rural Rock County.

Forbeck's finding meant Abbott was discharged from that case.

After another judge found Abbott was competent to proceed with a different case, however, prosecutors asked Forbeck to reconsider.

“We do have reason to believe Mr. Abbott has regained competency,” Deputy Racine County District Attorney Patricia Hanson told Forbeck. Hanson's office has been handling the homicide case as a special prosecution since 2011.

Not long after Forbeck discharged Abbott from the homicide, Racine County prosecutors filed new child pornography charges against him, court records show.

Abbott's attorneys again raised the issue of his competency to stand trial.

At a hearing Sept. 30, a doctor testified that Abbott was malingering—exaggerating his symptoms to appear mentally ill—and Judge Timothy Boyle found him fit to proceed in that case. He is scheduled for arraignment on those charges Oct. 30.

Prosecutors petitioned Forbeck to hold another competency hearing for the homicide, citing Boyle's decision.

Abbott's defense attorney, Kelly Mattingly, reminded Forbeck that he is not bound to reopen the homicide case because of what another judge ruled.

Mattingly also criticized the evaluation that led Boyle to find Abbott competent and said that because of the second case, Abbott hasn't gotten any of the help Forbeck ordered back in February.

“He has received zero treatment since the court last saw him,” Mattingly said.

Sitting at the defense table Tuesday morning, Abbott still rocked in his seat, his right arm trembling and his head often shaking or nodding, much as he had at hearings months ago.

Forbeck agreed he is not bound by Boyle's decision, but he still ordered a new competency hearing.

It's not clear who will testify about Abbott's competency or when that hearing will be.

Prosecutors have not decided if they will rely on the same doctor who testified in the Racine County case or if they will request another court-ordered evaluation. Mattingly can also ask for a second opinion from yet another doctor, depending on what conclusions are reached by the first.

Hanson has until the end of the week to tell Forbeck her choice.

According to state law, a competency hearing must be conducted within 30 days of Tuesday's hearing.

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