For the third time in as many years, a Fallon man charged in the murder of a fellow church member in 2018 was ruled incompetent to stand trial Tuesday and ordered to remain confined at Lakes Crossing, a maximum security psychiatric facility in Sparks.
John O’Connor, 53, pleaded not guilty in 2018 to four charges in the murder of Charles “Bert” Miller at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on West Richards Street.
The most serious charge was first-degree murder. The other charges O’Connor faces are battery with a deadly weapon when he allegedly shot Miller’s brother Duane with a handgun that caused prolonged physical pain. The third count is assault with a deadly weapon and the fourth count is having a concealed weapon without a permit.
Senior Judge William Maddox presided over the hearing in Tenth Judicial District Court that took less than 15 minutes. Maddox, defense attorney Richard Davies and O’Connor appeared on a Zoom call as did reporters from Reno television stations. Prosecutor Lane Mills, chief deputy district attorney, and two of Miller’s three adult children attended the hearing in the courtroom on North Maine Street.
“This is the yearly hearing to determine if Mr. O’Connor be placed in Lake’s Crossing,” said Maddox, who’s sitting in for Judge Thomas Stockard, who had a possible conflict.
Maddox said he reviewed a current report on O’Connor that was submitted to the court on July 18. He asked Davies if he and O’Connor had seen the report.
“I met with my client last Friday, and he had a copy with him,” Davies said.
Davies noted to the court the report was very comprehensive and relies on reports from previous years that have been completed on O’Connor.
“His report is very thorough,” Davies said of the psychiatrist.
Mills said the information in the report shows O’Connor is still a danger to himself and others.
“He still needs to be there,” Lane said.
Maddox agreed and said O’Connor remains “eligible to be placed in a forensic facility.”
“Mr. O’Connor is not a candidate for release,” Maddox added.
Maddox said a competency hearing will be scheduled near the same time in 2024. Mills and Davies agreed to a Aug. 17, 2024, court date, and Maddox agreed the hearing could be conducted on Zoom.
O’Connor received his first comprehensive examination in February 2019, and two psychologists said O’Connor couldn’t assist his attorney with the preparation of his defense. Maddox then vacated O’Connor’s trial. At the time, Mills said O’Connor did not meet the requirement for competency. Mills added if O’Connor became competent, charges could be refiled.
According to state law, O’Connor is remaining in custody for 10 years, and after a review, he could serve five additional years and possibly five more years after that. Mills said the court will re-evaluate O’Connor’s competency based on medical reports.
In prior competency hearings, Davies said the Lake’s Crossing doctors have determined his client also suffers from disillusionment.