The mental fitness of the man facing murder charges for the June 2011 stabbing death of Frank Augustine and an alleged attack on his former landlord has once again come into question.
According to the Marion County Observer, 23-year-old Christopher K. Newcomb, of Centralia appeared in Marion County Court Thursday morning for a scheduled bench trial however, questions regarding his fitness to stand trial and his sanity at the time of the alleged murder remain unanswered.
The Observer says Newcomb appeared alert and engaged, a stark contrast to his earlier court appearances following his initial arrest when he consistently asserted his name was “Constantine” and spoke in a pronounced British accent.
Newcomb was found unfit to stand trial in November during a hearing in which psychiatrists described Newcomb as “not able to add more information instead he became more bizarre and fragmented in his entire conversation. He was very confused and seemed out of touch with reality.”
The day he was initially pronounced unfit to stand trial, Newcomb appeared in court wearing a spit mask, with netting covering his head and face for the protection of the officers guarding him. He was immediately sent to Chester Mental Health Center for treatment, says the Observer.
Doctors have since found Newcomb to have ongoing delusions and auditory hallucinations.
Dr. Daniel Cuneo stated in a previous hearing that it would be impossible for Newcomb to “fake” such extreme mental illness for such a prolonged period and said he is unable to understand the court procedures or the nature of the charges against him. In addition, Cuneo noted that Newcomb speaks word sound and is illusionary with behavior so bizarre it would interrupt the court.
Newcomb remains in the custody of the Department of Human Services where he continues to receive treatment. A status hearing for the attorneys on the case was set for March 8 and will be followed by a discharge hearing, according to the Observer.
In February, the court ordered the appointment of a psychiatrist to determine whether Newcomb was sane at the time of the alleged offense. Those reports have not been completed.
Newcomb is charged with two counts of first degree murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of armed violence and one count of aggravated battery to a senior citizen in the stabbing death of Frank Augustine and the alleged attack on an elderly female.
According to statements made by Marion County State’s Attorney Matt Wilzbach during initial court action, Newcomb made statements to the police in which he admitted to altercations between himself and both of the alleged victims but claimed he was performing medical procedures on the individuals and not attempting to cause them harm.
After his arrest, Newcomb reportedly told police that he was attacked by his 66-year old landlord and acted in self defense. According to information presented in court, Newcomb said the woman was choking and he used a kitchen knife to perform a “tracheotomy.” The alleged victim was stabbed twice and survived.
According to the statement given to police, Newcomb said he later walked by Augustine’s place of business and noticed an offensive photograph. He allegedly entered the business, took the photo down and confronted Augustine. Wilzbach said that Newcomb told police that Augustine became aggressive and a fight ensued.
Wilzbach told the court In June, 2011 that Newcomb reported to police that Augustine had a heart attack so he sat on his chest and used scissors to perform “medical procedures” in an effort to save his life.
Newcomb then allegedly sprayed a fire extinguisher over the body and the room to provide what he described as a protective covering to ward off diseases.