96-year-old murder suspect ruled incompetent

Elderly woman accused of killing 53-year-old nephew

Published On: Feb 10 2012 03:01:09 PM EST   Updated On: Sep 29 2011 06:33:22 AM EDT
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -

A 96-year-old murder suspect was declared incompetent in a St. Johns County courtroom Friday.

Amanda Stevenson sat near the front of the courtroom in a wheelchair, with a cane in her lap, occasionally interacting with her attorney.

A judge said she will have Stevenson committed to a Department of Children and Families state hospital, likely in Chattahoochee. The judge said she wants Stevenson to be evaluated and then wants a report in three months, half the time of a standard evaluation.

Stevenson is accused of shooting and killing her 53-year-old nephew John Rice with a .357 magnum handgun.

Defense attorneys said they had two doctors evaluate Stevenson, and Judge Wendy Berger read some of their findings.

"It was his medical opinion that there was an imminent risk that she would act in a violent matter towards others," Berger said.

Defense attorneys argued that Stevenson may need to be treated from the standpoint of having mental challenges. A final diagnosis has not been made, but so far, the psychologists who have submitted reports believe she may have a late onset of dementia. In that case, the defense argues it is a degenerative condition as opposed to something Stevenson can be rehabilitated for.

Prosecutor Bob Mathis said he'll be waiting to hear what the evaluation at the state hospital shows.

"I want to wait and see what the psychiatrists over there say," Mathis said. "They will decide if her dementia, if that, in fact, is what's the matter with her."

"She's a danger to other people, for sure," Mathis added. "She's charged with shooting a man with a .357 magnum Colt Python. That's sufficient right there to show a possibility of violence."

Neighbors and police said Rice had problems with his aunt and that there had been arguments in the past. Police said Rice may have asked her to move out of his home just before the shooting.

Rice was an employee at Flagler College in St. Augustine.

Several of Stevenson's relatives and grandchildren were in the courtoom waiting to see what the outcome of the competency hearing would be.

"They are very supportive, and you have to congratulate a family because they lost one of their own who they supported as well," Assistant Public Defender Ray Warren said.