By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) - A tribal member accused of fatally shooting his grandmother and two others on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana in 2011 was declared by a federal judge on Wednesday to be mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Sheldon Bernard Chase, 25, should be hospitalized in “a suitable facility” until a future court hearing determines whether he should be committed by civil proceedings to a psychiatric institution, U.S. District Judge Susan Watters said in her written order.
The ruling came hours after a hearing in Billings during which a government psychologist presented Watters with what she described as undisputed evidence that Chase was unfit to understand the proceedings against him or assist in his own defense.
Chase was accused of gunning down his cousin's boyfriend, 20-year-old Reuben Jefferson, as the two were fighting, then shooting and killing his cousin, Levon Driftwood, 21, and his grandmother, Gloria Sarah Goes Ahead Cummins, 80.
An FBI affidavit filed in the case revealed that the triple slaying on Oct. 4, 2011, was witnessed by a 3-year-old boy.
Chase, described in the affidavit as having a documented history of mental illness, was arrested in Spokane, Washington, a day after the slayings following a manhunt across several Western states.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman from Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Cooney)