- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2001

An Alexandria, Va., prosecutor yesterday without explanation withdrew his request to seek competency testing for the suspected killer of 8-year-old Kevin Shifflett.
During a brief hearing, Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel told Circuit Judge Alfred Swersky he will not, for now, pursue a motion to have doctors of his choosing evaluate Gregory Devon Murphy's sanity.
Mr. Sengel filed the motion Jan. 16 to determine whether Murphy, 29, was mentally competent when, police say, he fatally stabbed Kevin last April 19.
The prosecutor did not give Judge Swersky a reason for the withdrawal, which seemed to surprise the judge.
Murphy's defense attorneys then withdrew their motion to get the court's permission to authorize without Murphy's consent any medical tests his attorneys believe need to be conducted on him.
Defense attorney Joseph McCarthy also did not offer an explanation for the withdrawal.
Joseph Bowman, one of Murphy's attorneys who did not attend the hearing, said last night the defense team withdrew the motion because they need more time to work on their request.
"We didn't really withdraw our motion," Mr. Bowman said. "We just took them off the docket because we need more time and we want to focus on other issues."
Mr. Bowman said he expects the defense's motion will be refiled with the court in a few weeks.
Blood tests have shown Murphy has syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause dementia in its later stages.
Murphy needs a spinal tap to determine how far the disease has advanced. He has resisted all forms of medical testing, including a brain scan, court records show.
Murphy told Mr. Bowman on Jan. 3 that he will refuse a spinal tap and any treatment for the often-fatal disease.
Because Murphy is an adult, his parents, Davis and Mae Murphy, cannot authorize medical treatment. Under the law, the defense could ask a judge to appoint a guardian who would legally care for and manage Murphy's welfare and estate. The guardian could be Murphy's next of kin.
Neither Mr. Sengel nor Mr. McCarthy would comment on their actions after the hearing. They also declined to comment on whether another arrangement had been agreed to by both parties in the case.
In November, Judge Swersky ruled that Murphy was unfit to stand trial for Kevin's slaying after clinical psychologist William Stejskal found Murphy to be delusional and paranoid. Mr. Stejskal based his conclusions on two 75-minute sessions with Murphy in October.
Although Mr. Stejskal believes Murphy is unable to assist his attorneys with his defense, he also said Murphy understands the charges against him and their implications, both elements of mental competency.
Murphy's capital murder trial is scheduled to begin May 1. If convicted, he could get the death penalty.
Police said Murphy stabbed young Kevin 18 times before slashing the youngster's throat. Kevin had been playing with other children in front of his great-grandparents' home in the Del Ray area of Alexandria.
Two women, including Kevin's great-grandmother, who tried to help the boy, were wounded in the mid-afternoon attack. Murphy had been out on parole for 12 days before Kevin was slain.
Murphy did not attend yesterday's hearing in Alexandria Circuit Court. He is being held in a maximum security wing at the Liberty Forensic Unit at Riverside Regional Jail in Hopewell, Va.
Doctors there are trying to treat him so that he can aid in his defense, which is the most important element of competency.


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