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Aptos man accused of killing his parents will undergo mental evaluations

Posted: Thursday, Oct 31st, 2013

SANTA CRUZ — A judge has suspended criminal proceedings against an Aptos man accused of killing his parents after a public defender raised questions about the defendant’s competency.

James Henderson, 41, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Edyth and Joseph Henderson and previously pleaded not guilty. He appeared in court Thursday for what was expected to be his preliminary hearing, but attorney Zach Schwarzbach told Judge Samuel Stevens he had doubts about Henderson’s ability to understand the proceedings against him.

Henderson has “a notorious history of mental illness,” Schwarzbach said.

Henderson sat quietly next to his attorney in court Thursday, dressed in yellow jail attire.

Prosecutor Ross Taylor objected to the delay, arguing that he hadn’t seen evidence that Henderson wasn’t competent. He pushed to continue with the preliminary hearing as scheduled.

Judge Stevens, however, agreed to suspend proceedings and appointed two doctors to evaluate Henderson. Henderson is due back in court Dec. 3 at which point the judge will review the doctors’ evaluations. If Henderson is found to be incompetent to stand trial, he will be sent to a state medical facility for treatment. In that case, the preliminary hearing won’t be held until Henderson is deemed to be restored to competency.

Henderson is accused of crashing his BMW into his 71-year-old father in the front yard of his parents’ Ridge View Road home on June 30. Autopsy reports showed Joseph Henderson died from blunt force trauma. Edyth Henderson, 68, called 911 just before 5 p.m. that evening to report that someone was intentionally trying to run her husband over. The line disconnected and when sheriff’s deputies arrived, Edyth Henderson was dead inside her home. The cause of death was blunt-force trauma and broken bones in her throat.

James Henderson was arrested a few hours later at a neighbor’s property as deputies searched the area. They found him inside a horse corral pretending to be asleep.

The younger Henderson has a lengthy criminal history, and Judge Stevens, who has retired but was filling in for Judge John Gallagher Thursday, said he recalled seeing Henderson in court previously.

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