Competency still issue for suspect in 5 NJ murders

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Posted: May 06, 2011 2:01 PM
Competency still issue for suspect in 5 NJ murders

A man charged with killing five teenagers in Newark, N.J., in 1978 has held off on dismissing his attorney but still could face a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial.

Lee Evans had indicated he might want to represent himself at trial, but didn't file formally to do so at a hearing Friday in state Superior Court.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are still seeking to have Evans examined by a psychiatrist to determine if he's competent to stand trial, according to Evans' attorney, Bukie Adetula. State Superior Court Judge Patricia Costello denied a similar request in February, but the state has asked her to reconsider. Adetula has until May 24 to file a motion opposing the request.

According to court filings, Evans showed up at a police department in a neighboring county last year and reported there was a conspiracy against him that included his former attorney, the Essex County Prosecutor's Office and Mayor Cory Booker.

Evans and his cousin Philander Hampton were charged last March with murdering Melvin Pittman, Ernest Taylor, Alvin Turner, Randy Johnson and Michael McDowell, all aged 16 or 17.

The five were last seen on a busy street near a park where they had played basketball on Aug. 20, 1978. At the time, Evans, a local carpenter and handyman, told police that he dropped off the boys on a street corner near an ice cream parlor.

The big break in the case came in 2008 when Hampton told police that he and Evans lured the youths to an abandoned building, restrained them and set it on fire in a dispute over stolen drugs. The bodies were never recovered.

Last month, Costello denied Hampton's motion to have his statement to police barred on constitutional grounds. Hampton was originally scheduled for trial this week but is believed to be in plea negotiations.