- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Nikko Jenkins, who killed four people in Omaha in 2013, has been declared mentally fit to participate in his death-penalty sentencing hearing.

State psychiatric experts with the Lincoln Regional Center issued the declaration Wednesday.

Jenkins, 29, was convicted in 2014 of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of four people in Omaha over a 10-day period in August 2013. It will be up to a district court judge to set a competency hearing that will determine whether Jenkins can understand the death-penalty proceedings and help his lawyer.

If Jenkins is declared competent, Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon will set a death-penalty hearing, the fourth time he has done so. Jenkins would then go before a three-judge panel that will decide whether his crimes merit the death penalty.

The timing of the death-penalty process matters because state lawmakers abolished the death penalty last year, but a statewide petition drive suspended that action until voters have a say in November on whether to keep capital punishment on the books.

A defense psychiatrist has testified that Jenkins suffers from schizophrenia and perhaps a bipolar disorder, while state psychiatrists have testified that Jenkins is faking mental illness.

Jenkins was released from prison on July 30, 2013, after he had served nearly 11 years for various crimes. The shootings happened shortly thereafter.

Jenkins pleaded no contest and was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder in 2014 for the deaths of Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz, Juan Uribe-Pena, Curtis Bradford and Andrea Kruger in three separate attacks.

Kruger was Jenkins’ last victim. Prosecutors say he pulled her from her car, shot her four times in the street with a deer rifle, then stole her vehicle.

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