Mental evaluation ordered for Fallon murder suspect |

Mental evaluation ordered for Fallon murder suspect

Steve Ranson
LVN Editor Emeritus
John O’Connor, who is charged with first-degree murder, looks back as his court-appointed attorney, Richard P. Davies, stands next to him during a status hearing Thursday in Justice Court.
Steve Ranson/LVN

A status hearing for a longtime Fallon resident charged with first-degree murder was held Thursday in New River Township Justice of the Peace.

John O’Connor appeared in the same court on Wednesday to hear Judge Mike Richards read three charges filed against him. The 48-year-old O’Connor is charged with the first-degree murder of Charles E. “Bert” Miller, who was fatally shot multiple times with a 9mm Beretta Px4 Storm handgun after the sacrament meeting in the chapel of the West Richards Street Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Both O’Connor and Miller attended the church.

The second count is battery with a deadly weapon. O’Connor is charged with shooting Duane Miller, 64, with a handgun causing prolonged physical pain. Miller suffered a leg wound but was treated and released from Banner Churchill Community Hospital. The third count is assault with a deadly weapon when O’Connor allegedly aimed the handgun at Mike Whitaker.

The court appointed Reno attorney Richard P. Davies to defend O’Connor. Davies has experience in trying capital murder cases. He told Richards that Carson City attorney John Malone will assist him.

“I’m requiring two attorneys who know each other very well,” Davies told the court. “There’s a certain amount of competence when two individuals work so well together on murder cases.”

Furthermore, Davies said a defense team is already in place, and he’ll “get things started right away.”

Davies asked the court to order a competency evaluation for O’Connor. Richards said it should be done within 30 days and sent to the Tenth District Court in Fallon. He said the defendant and his attorney should expect to return to Justice Court in about 45 days. Malone said the case will eventually wind up in district court.

After the status hearing, Malone said he doesn’t know if the prosecution will file an intent for the death penalty, but he said the district court makes the decision. Davies and Malone also declined to discuss any defense strategy when asked by one of the Reno television stations covering the hearing.

The Lahontan Valley News also learned after the hearing that O’Connor is being held at the Lyon County jail. Churchill County Sheriff Ben Trotter said the defendant was transferred to Lyon County for his own safety and because the local law enforcement community and Fallon Churchill Volunteer Fire Department have close ties.

Miller spent 35 years with the Fallon Churchill Volunteer Fire Department.