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Spanaway father found incompetent to stand trial in son’s death

Post by Stacey Mulick / The News Tribune on Dec. 31, 2008 at 9:00 am with No Comments »
December 31, 2008 9:00 am

An 81-year-old Spanaway man accused of killing his son during an argument earlier this year has been found incompetent to stand trial.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper made the ruling Tuesday.

Under the decision, the first-degree murder charge against Clarence Gerald Munce was dismissed. Culpepper also ordered Munce, who suffers from dementia, to be taken to Western State Hospital for civil commitment proceedings.

Munce was accused of fatally shooting his 58-year-old son, Gerald Munce, during an argument over an automobile hood ornament June 21. The father had called 911 to report the shooting at his house in the 22300 block of 30th Avenue East.

Gerald Munce died after being shot in the back. His father was arrested and charged in the death.

A plea of not guilty was initially entered on behalf of Clarence Munce. His competency to stand trial was questioned and he was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation at Western State Hospital.

In late September, Clarence Munce was ordered to stay at Western State Hospital for treatment to regain his competency to stand trial.

The extended stay didn’t restore the elder Munce’s ability to stand trial but gave mental health experts the opportunity to further evaluate him, Pierce County chief criminal deputy prosecutor Jerry Costello said.

“It’s the opinion by all he’s not likely to improve to the point where he could rationally assist his attorneys,” Costello said Wednesday.

The court ruled Tuesday the father was not competent to help with his defense. The order states it is unlikely that Clarence Munce will become competent to stand trial “at any time in the foreseeable future.”

“The defendant, because of a mental disease or defect, cannot choose, with a reasonable degree of rational understanding, whether to change his plea, to stand trial, plead guilty or enter an additional plea of mental irresponsibility,” the court order signed Tuesday states. “The defendant, because of a mental disease or defect, is incapable of appreciating his peril and does not have a rational nor a factional understanding of the proceedings against him.”

Pierce County prosecutors have forwarded the case to the state Attorney General’s Office for the civil commitment proceedings, Costello said.

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