- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

An Alexandria prosecutor yesterday said he is "guardedly optimistic" of taking to trial a mentally disturbed man accused of stabbing an 8-year-old boy to death more than 2 years ago.
But Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel acknowledged he is racing against time in prosecuting Gregory D. Murphy, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic charged with capital murder in the April 2000 death of Kevin Shifflett.
"I'm not ready to give up on the case because I think there is still a prospect that he could be competent to stand trial at some point in the future," Mr. Sengel said.
The prosecutor said he is working with several members of the Virginia House of Delegates to propose legislation that would lengthen the amount of time the state can hold mentally incompetent suspects in criminal cases before the cases are automatically dismissed.
Currently, Virginia law allows mentally incompetent suspects in criminal cases to be committed to mental institutions for five years before their cases are dismissed. Murphy, 30, has been held and examined at Central State Hospital in Petersburg for the past 2 years.
"My feeling is guardedly optimistic [of prosecuting Murphy]," Mr. Sengel said.
Yesterday, Murphy told an an Alexandria court that he is competent to stand trial. "I've been taking my medications 100 percent," he said in court. "I'll do anything to be found competent."
But doctors who have examined him disagreed, and a judge sent Murphy back to Central State Hospital.
"[The doctors] assessment of Murphy's condition is pretty accurate at this point," Mr. Sengel said.
Murphy is accused of stabbing Kevin 18 times as the boy played in his great-grandparents' front yard. Kevin's great-grandmother and a passer-by who tried to help the boy also were injured in the unprovoked knife attack.
When the court first ruled that Murphy was incompetent to stand trial, Mr. Sengel filed a motion to have him involuntarily medicated with the goal of making him competent over time. Doctors yesterday noted "some areas of improvement" in Murphy's condition.
In October 2001, Murphy's attorneys filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that a state judge had violated Murphy's constitutional rights by ordering him to be forcibly medicated. The court refused to hear the appeal in January.
Prosecutors hope to win a death sentence for Murphy.
Murphy's next court appearance will be in six months at the next state-mandated review of his mental condition.

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