A Centralia murder case in which the defendant has been deemed unfit to stand trial had its first day Wednesday of what is anticipated to be a two-day discharge bench trial, at the end of which judge Michael McHaney will decide if the defendant was or was not insane at the time of the alleged crime.
The now 24-year-old defendant, Christopher K. Newcomb, is accused of attempted murder for the alleged June 1, 2011 stabbing of his elderly landlady, as well as murder for the brutal stabbing death of centralism businessman Frank Augustine, later that same day.
The court on Wednesday heard from Newcomb’s former landlady Katherine Beard, who told what she could remember of the events of June 1, 2011.
Judge McHaney found the state had met its burden, which is the first step in the discharge process, and will be followed by the judge finding if Newcomb will or will not be found guilty by reason of insanity.
In his own words, Newcomb was heard in a video taped police interview, that was made the day after the attacks on both Beard and Augustine.
In the interview Newcomb told police how he came to be inside Augustine’s business, Fotoz and said following an altercation between him and Augustine, he believed the business owner had suffered a heart attack.
The defendant, who told officers he was a doctor, was seen and heard explaining to police that he attempted to save Augustine through a series of medical procedures including cutting his neck to release pooled blood.
As the interview progressed, Newcomb referred to himself as “Constantine” and begged to be allowed to return to his wife and child.
From the day Newcomb was arraigned he displayed odd behavior, again calling himself Constantine and indicating he was on a military mission. The pattern was repeated the day he was found unfit to stand trial, when he was brought to court wearing a spit shield and repeated his name was Constantine and a series of numbers, much like a prisoner of war reciting his serial number.
Dr. Daniel Cuneo, a clinical psychologist who performed the initial fitness evaluation on Newcomb, is expected to testify on Thursday.
In his testimony at the defendant’s 2012 fitness hearing, Cuneo said in his decades long career he had never seen anyone with as significant a psychosis as Newcomb, and that the defendant suffers from ongoing delusions and auditory hallucinations. Upon Cuneo’s recommendation, Newcomb has been held in the Chester Mental Health Center since that hearing, where he has been receiving treatment.