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Man With Dementia, 91, Can Stand Trial, Judge Finds

Posted Dec 11, 2008 3:49 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Although Joe Conway Elder has dementia and some delusions, the 91-year-old is competent to stand trial in a second-degree murder case for allegedly shooting to death a staffer at the adult care home at which he was living, a judge in Pierce County, Wash., decided today.

In a written ruling, Superior Court Judge James Orlando found that "it appears Mr. Elder does have the capacity to understand the nature of the proceedings and to assist in his own defense" and "is able to communicate verbally and is not so profoundly delusional that he would be unable to participate in a trial or assist his attorney in possible defenses,” reports the News Tribune.

The judge indicated, however, that it is possible this situation will change for the worse before trial and may need to be re-evaluated.

His ruling followed a two-day evidentiary hearing. According to some witnesses there, Elder may have believed that the murdered man, Ramoncito Barro, 39, who was delivering fruit to his room, was actually an undercover police agent seeking to harm him, the newspaper reports.

Updated at 4:44 p.m. to clarify headline.

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