Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Alleged bomber found competent to stand trial
Man's attorney requests second mental evaluation
By Shelley Grieshop
WAPAKONETA - An 18-year-old St. Marys man accused of planting a bomb at a local gas station was found competent to stand trial following the first of possibly two mental evaluations.
On Wednesday, Jesse B. McDermitt was found mentally competent after having a psychological evaluation at the request of his attorney, Mark Weller. McDermitt, who was indicted in April on six felony counts, has pleaded not guilty to the charges by claiming insanity.
But before Auglaize County Common Pleas Court Judge Frederick Pepple ruled on the competency matter during Wednesday's hearing, Weller informed him that he recently filed a motion to request a second psychological evaluation of McDermitt. This time, Weller is seeking the opinion of an independent psychologist from Lima instead of the Forensic Psychological Center for Western Ohio in Dayton, where McDermitt was brought June 18 and 29.
Weller said his client did not understand some of the questions posed to him during the first evaluation and blamed McDermitt's unstable mental condition.
After reviewing the 15-page report prepared by the Dayton-area psychologist, Pepple said he believes McDermitt was angry during the evaluation and may have been dishonest and manipulative when answering. Another evaluation likely won't be helpful, the judge added.
Near the end of the 45-minute hearing, Pepple said he'd take the motion for a second evaluation under advisement but gave no time-frame when he'd rule on the matter.
"I'm not going to promise anything," he added.
Pepple asked Weller and prosecutors Ed Pierce and Amy Beckett to meet with court schedulers to set a date for the first pretrial hearing in the case. In April, McDermitt agreed to waive his right to a speedy trial and reiterated that waiver in court on Wednesday.
Besides Weller, no one was in the courtroom on behalf of McDermitt, who was shackled and escorted in by two sheriff's deputies.
McDermitt is accused of leaving an improvised bomb in a bookbag beside one of the gasoline pumps at a Marathon gas station on South Street in St. Marys shortly before 8 a.m. Dec. 2. An employee spotted the bag and moved it to the entranceway of the business, assuming a student had left it behind.
About 45 minutes later, the bag was opened and wires and fluid-filled liter bottles were found inside. Police were summoned and later the Lima Allen County Regional Bomb Squad, which safely detonated the homemade bomb at a remote location.
Acting on a tip, police went to McDermitt's home at Townview Terrace Apartments later that day and found him allegedly wearing a second handcrafted bomb. That device allegedly fell from his shirt during a police search and also was detonated safely. McDermitt was arrested and later incarcerated without bond at a juvenile detention facility in Circleville, where he remains.
During the incident, St. Marys schools - located just a block away from the gas station - was placed on shutdown. McDermitt was not a student at the school.
A spokesman for the State Fire Marshal's office told The Daily Standard for an earlier story the two bombs could have burned but would not have exploded on their own. However, the bomb left at the gas station had potential to be dangerous had it burned near the gas pump where it was initially left, the spokesman said.
A grand jury indicted McDermitt in April for two counts each of carrying a concealed weapon, unlawful possession of a dangerous ordnance and inducing panic. The charges are fourth- and fifth-degree felonies. If convicted on all counts, he faces a maximum 71/2 years in prison.
McDermitt's alleged actions on Dec. 3 violated probation terms from a 2006 criminal conviction for bringing weapons and explosives to school in Wapakoneta, where he was a student at the time. McDermitt reportedly told authorities he brought homemade explosive devices, shotgun shells, a gas mask and knives into the school because he was being harassed by other students.
In the 2006 case, McDermitt was charged with 10 crimes and sentenced to 21/2 years in juvenile detention.