Fallon man ruled competent to stand trial for murder
A Fallon man charged with the murder of a fellow church member in July 2018 has been found competent to stand trial after a status hearing on Monday in Tenth District Court.
John K. O’Connor is accused of one count of murder and one count of battery with substantial harm after fatally shooting Charles E. “Bert” Miller, 61, with a handgun during a sacrament meeting on July 22 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on East Richards Street. A criminal complaint also charged the Fallon man with shooting Bert Miller’s brother, Duane Miller, 64, with a handgun causing prolonged physical pain. The third count facing O’Connor is assault with a deadly weapon when he allegedly aimed his handgun at another church member.
According to the initial police report, O’Connor shot the two men with a 9-millimeter handgun that was witnessed by approximately 50 church members.
O’Connor was ruled not competent to stand trial on two occasions, the last coming earlier this year on Feb. 27. Judge Thomas Stockard ruled that O’Connor continue to receive treatment at Lake’s Crossing in Reno until doctors deemed him competent to stand trial. Lake’s Crossing is a maximum security psychiatric facility providing comprehensive forensic mental health services. When O’Connor first appeared in New River Township on July 26, 2018, former Justice of the Peace Mike Richards ordered a mental evaluation to determine if the Fallon man was competent to stand trial for murder.
Two months later, doctors testified in District Court, and as a result of the testimony, Stockard ruled O’Connor was not competent to stand trial for murder. The scenario was different on Monday, though, when the court learned O’Connor was competent and could assist with his defense.
The court appointed Reno attorney Richard P. Davies in 2018 to defend O’Connor. Davies has experience in trying capital murder cases. At the second status hearing in February, Davies said he has a defense he’s eager to share with jurors. Davies said the defense will make sense when offered to the jury. Davies also said he will revisit a change of venue.
A preliminary hearing will be held in New River Township within several weeks.
At the status hearing Monday, O’Connor, a longtime resident of Fallon who graduated from Churchill County High School in 1989, learned he will return to the Lyon County Jail. Before he was sent to Lake’s Crossing, O’Connor was transferred to Lyon County for his own safety because Miller’s son is a deputy with the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office.