Lawyer: Insanity plea coming in Vegas ax case

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LAS VEGAS - A man charged with hacking a 4-month-old baby to death and critically wounding the infant's mother with a medieval-style battle ax in his Las Vegas neighborhood will plead not guilty by reason of insanity, his lawyer said Thursday.

Harold E. Montague, 33, is competent for trial but "severely insane," Deputy Clark County Public Defender Norm Reed told reporters moments after a judge ruled there was enough evidence for Montague to stand trial in state court on murder, attempted murder and other charges.

Prosecutors are considering seeking the death penalty.

"Harold Montague is severely delusional," Reed said, citing a diagnosis by a doctor he brought into the case but did not name.

Reed said he didn't intend to challenge Montague's fitness for trial, but he said he expected a jury will see that his client is mentally ill.

"We'll be entering a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, and we're hoping that in the end he will spend the rest of his natural life in a prison where he can address his mental health issues," Reed said.

Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melanie Andress-Tobiasson's decision to bind Montague over for trial came after gruesome final testimony from a medical examiner who went to the scene after the attack and conducted the coroner's autopsy on the child, Damien Avila-Castro.

With news cameras in the courtroom, prosecutor Giancarlo Pesci didn't publicly display photos of the child after the Feb. 11 attack on a street several blocks east of the Las Vegas Strip.

But he showed them to Dr. Lisa Gavin, who testified that any one of three ax blows that cleaved the child's skull could have killed him, and that every bone in the boy's head was broken.

"Each and every bone of the head was fractured?" Pesci asked.

"Correct," Gavin said.

Montague also is accused of stabbing his profoundly disabled sister-in-law, Monica O'Dazier, inside their home before bursting outside and attacking boy's mother, Sonia Lisette Castro, as she pushed the boy in a stroller.

Harold Montague's wife, Erricca Montague, testified Monday that her husband had served since 2004 as O'Dazier's primary caregiver. She said her sister has cerebral palsy and is mentally disabled, suffers seizures and can walk just a few steps with assistance.

Erricca Montague said her husband spent several sleepless nights pacing the floor, wasn't eating well, and appeared dehydrated the day of the attack.

O'Dazier, 36, was hospitalized for several days and released in the care of Erricca Montague, Pesci said Thursday.

Castro, speaking through an interpreter, testified through tears Monday that Montague laughed and mocked her as he struck her face and head with the blade of the battle ax.

She showed scars on the right side of her face where surgeons reattached her face and jaw, and gazed toward Montague with a blind right eye before pointing him out as the man who attacked her.

Montague sat shackled Thursday, staring down at the defense table in front of him except to acknowledge for the judge that he was willingly giving up his right to testify in his defense.

Andress-Tobiasson scheduled a May 3 trial-setting appearance before Clark County District Court Judge Stefany Miley.

Reed said Montague is being held in isolation at the Clark County jail in Las Vegas.

"He's is clearly paranoid," the defense lawyer said. "But I can't tell you that's a medical finding that's going to be used at trial."

"He's afraid of everything at this point," Reed added, "the system, the situation. We're just doing our best to try and keep him to be able to communicate with us."


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