Court orders second opinion on murder suspect's competency

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Nico Savidge
Thursday, August 22, 2013

JANESVILLE—After a doctor's evaluation of a town of Plymouth homicide suspect proved “uncertain at best,” his attorney said, prosecutors on Thursday asked for another report to see if the man is fit to stand trial.

Daniel Bellard, 75, was not in the courtroom for a competency hearing Thursday morning in Rock County Court, where he has been charged with first-degree murder in the Feb. 6 shooting of his neighbor, 59-year-old Christine Gestrich.

Judge James Daley ordered a competency evaluation for Bellard at his initial appearance July 9 to see if he was able to proceed with the case.

Bellard attempted suicide after killing Gestrich, authorities said, badly wounding himself with a pair of shotgun blasts.

The injuries kept Bellard in a Madison hospital for five months after the shooting as he recovered and could now render him unable to assist in his own defense.

At Thursday's hearing, District Attorney David O'Leary and defense attorney Robert Junig seemed unsatisfied with the first court-ordered evaluation.

“I think it's necessary for the state to hear a second opinion,” O'Leary said in requesting that another doctor examine Bellard to see if he is competent.

Daley granted the request and ordered a new evaluation, while Junig reserved his option to ask for a third report.

The evaluations are sealed and not available to the public because of medical privacy laws.

“The report filed with the court raised some questions in my mind,” O'Leary said in an email after the hearing. “Based upon the severity of the case, I believe it is necessary to pursue every option on behalf of the state and the victim's family.”

Bellard will next appear in court for another competency hearing Sept. 17.

Last updated: 11:08 am Thursday, August 22, 2013

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