A Delaware County judge approved a request for a competency evaluation last week from defense attorneys representing a Columbus man charged with murder.
William Sean Roberts, 30, of Columbus, is currently charged with aggravated murder, an unclassified felony; attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony; attempted murder, a first-degree felony; kidnapping, a first-degree felony; two counts of having weapons while under disability, third-degree felonies; aggravated robbery; a first-degree felony; four counts of robbery, second-degree felonies; and one count of tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony. He pleaded “not guilty” to the charges at an arraignment in August 2020 and has been awaiting trial ever since.
According to the indictment, the charges stem from events that transpired on the night of July 20, 2020, south of Polaris. Roberts allegedly shot and killed his 1-year-old daughter, identified in the indictment as R.R. Roberts, and also allegedly shot the baby’s mother, identified in the indictment as E.F. Roberts. Roberts was reportedly arrested after he attempted to carjack several vehicles and flee the scene.
After the indictment, prosecutors announced they would be seeking the death penalty for Roberts, a first for the county in nearly 20 years.
Roberts’ attorneys, Diane M. Menashe and Kort Gatterdam, filed a motion on May 17 asking for an evaluation of Roberts’ competence and asking to enter a plea of “not guilty by reason of insanity” and stating that after conversations with Roberts and his family, as well as their own investigation, they believe there is a “valid question” about Roberts’ competency to stand trial.
The attorneys asked that the evaluation determine a variety of things, including if Roberts is capable of understanding the nature and objective of the proceedings; if Roberts presently has a mental illness; as well as what his mental state was a that time of the crime.
Judge James P. Schuck granted the motion on May 25 and ordered that Netcare will go to the Delaware County Jail to complete and examination of Roberts and prepare a written report regarding his mental condition and competence to stand trial.
Schuck also ordered that the attorneys file any “not guilty by reason of insanity” motions within seven days. Menashe and Gatterdam filed the motion on May 30, formally changing Roberts’ plea.
Schuck also stayed all proceedings in the case until the evaluation is completed.
The aggravated murder charge carries several specifications, including a death penalty specification. Other charges carry firearm or repeat violent offender specifications, which would add mandatory prison time to any sentence Roberts would receive if convicted.
Roberts was denied bail at his arraignment and has been in the Delaware County Jail ever since. Since the arraignment, there have been more than 50 motions filed by attorneys in the case, and numerous hearings have been held.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.