- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A suspected serial killer who was set to face first-degree murder charges this week in the slaying of a Largo woman and her daughter will undergo a mental competency exam to determine whether he is fit to stand trial, according to Prince George’s County court records.

Jason Thomas Scott, who was sentenced in January to 100 years in prison for a spree of burglaries and other crimes, faces first-degree murder charges in the 2009 deaths of Delores Dewitt, 42, and her 20-year-old daughter, Ebony. The trial, scheduled to start Monday, was postponed after Circuit Court Judge Michael Whalen approved a request for Scott to undergo a mental competency evaluation.

“Counsel believe that the defendant is currently unable to effectively assist in his own defense,” Scott’s attorney Harry Trainor wrote in court documents requesting an evaluation for any mental disorder or disability.

The court documents provide no details explaining why Scott, 29, has been unable to assist in his defense, and Mr. Trainor declined to speak further about the reason for the request.

“This is a case of unusual complexity, both factually and legally,” Mr. Trainor wrote in court filings. “In order to prepare this case for trial and effectively represent the defendant during trial, it is essential that counsel be able to effectively communicate with the defendant while the defendant is able to receive information, understand it, process it in a reasonably timely manner, and in return provide helpful information to defense counsel.”

The bodies of the Dewitts were discovered in March 2009 inside a burning car not far from their home. Scott also is considered a suspect in two other cases but has not been criminally charged, although prosecutors said he has admitted responsibility. Another woman and her daughter, Karen Lofton, 45, and 16-year-old Karissa Lofton, were found shot in their Largo home in January 2009. In June 2008, Vilma Butler was found shot in her Bowie home after her house was set ablaze.

Scott last week was committed to Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where he will be subject to an evaluation that could take up to 60 days, said John Erzen, spokesman for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Mental competency was not an issue raised in the federal case against Scott, said Marcia Murphy, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland.

In that case, Scott was convicted of 11 federal felony charges relating to a series of crimes committed during more than 50 burglaries and nine armed home-invasion robberies.

Prosecutors said Scott planned for his crimes by stalking his victims at their homes and meticulously researching their backgrounds on the Internet and with a database at a UPS Inc. facility in Largo, where he worked at the time. When he attacked, Scott carried an arsenal of items that stood out to victims, including body armor, a police scanner, a Glock handgun and flex cuffs.

At the beginning of Scott’s sentencing hearing in that case, he made what prosecutors described at the time as a last-ditch effort to postpone his sentencing and made a request to change his court-appointed attorney. In court, the attorney, Kobie Flowers, described his relationship with Scott as contentious, stating that he was the second lawyer to represent him since he was first arrested in 2009.

Defendants who are found incompetent can have trials postponed until they regain competency or in some cases can be committed indefinitely to the state’s forensic psychiatric hospital. The outcome of the competency hearing in the first-degree murder case would not have any effect on Scott’s previous conviction, Mr. Erzen said.

“They are two separate cases and two separate courts so one should not have any effect on one another,” he said.

Another trial date has not been set in the case, but prosecutors think it would be unlikely to take place before the end of the year.