Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hooks found NGRI

Judge Declares Murder Suspect Legally Insane
Staff Writer

QUITMAN -- After more than four years in and out of court for murder, aggravated assault charges and competency hearings, Wood County officials say Kaleb Richard Hooks will most likely spend the rest of his life at Vernon State Hospital. The 402nd district court concluded Hooks suffers from a severe mental illness and will "likely cause serious harm to others."

After reviewing medical evidence and hearing testimony from defense counsel Monday, Judge G. Timothy Boswell found Hooks was legally insane at the time of an attack on a Wood County Justice Center inmate. The aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge, a first-degree felony, was enhanced with a hate crime paragraph, as Hooks yelled racial slurs while attacking a fellow inmate. Wood County District Attorney Jim Wheeler said the charge is in the same category as a murder charge.

Although Hooks has not been convicted of a murder charge, stemming from the 2005 beating death of an East Texas man, Wheeler said he is satisfied that Hooks will be locked away for good and unable to harm anyone else.

"The statute of limitations does not run out on a murder case," Wheeler said. "In the unlikely event that he is released, he'll still have to answer to that charge. Our commitment is to protect the public."

The trial for the aggravated assault charge began in September, but it ended in a mistrial after Hooks disrupted court by "acting up" and had to be restrained during the jury selection phase.

Prior to the trial, his defense attorneys -- Clifton "Scrappy" Holmes and David Moore -- insisted that Hooks be evaluated again.

Hooks was initially charged with murder in 2005 following the beating death of 47-year-old Steven Tinney. He was found competent to stand trial, but later released from that charge in 2007, after doctors found that he was incompetent. He was ordered to Vernon State Hospital then, but later deemed competent again by doctors. Since that time, officials say Hooks continued to disrupt court, and allegedly, was violent toward a Wood County jailer, in which he has another charge.

Wheeler said Hooks' mental illness may be the result of abusing inhalants, which allegedly occurred after he made bail on the murder charge in 2005.

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