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State’s psychologists: Jeskey has skills to assist in her defense at murder trial

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Roxanne Jeskey sits in court on Thursday during the closing argument of her competency hearing on April 16, 2013 at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Two psychologists said Tuesday that a woman accused of brutally slaying her husband 2½ years ago has the skills needed to assist defense attorneys during her murder trial next week at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

Roxanne Jeskey, 50, of Bangor was charged with intentional or knowing murder and depraved indifference murder in the death of her husband, Richard Jeskey, 53, in their Ohio Street apartment. His naked and bloody body was found June 13, 2011. He was beaten and strangled, according to autopsy results.

April O’Grady, director of psychological services at the University of Maine, testified Tuesday morning at a second competency hearing for Jeskey before Superior Court Justice E. Allen Hunter. Robert Riley, a clinical neuropsychologist in Augusta, took the stand Tuesday afternoon.

A different judge found Jeskey competent in May after four expert witnesses — two for the prosecution and two for the defense — gave conflicting opinions concerning whether Jeskey could assist her attorneys at trial. All agreed that Jeskey’s memory and cognitive skills have been impaired by the removal of a brain tumor in 2004.

Jeskey pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on May 24, two weeks after Superior Court Justice Ann Murray found her competent to stand trial. When Jeskey asserted an insanity defense, Murray recused herself from the case and Hunter was appointed to handle it.

The defendant’s condition has deteriorated over the past seven months, in part because she has been taken off antipsychotic medications while being held at the Penobscot County Jail, her Bangor attorneys Joseph Baldacci and David Bate said in their motion for a second competency hearing.

After Hunter granted the defense motion, Assistant Attorneys General Leane Zainea and Deb Cashman, who are prosecuting the case, filed a motion asking the court to allow O’Grady and Riley to examine Jeskey again. The judge granted the motion.

O’Grady examined Jeskey on Saturday at the Penobscot County Jail. When asked Tuesday by Zainea if Jeskey is competent to stand trial, O’Grady did not give a yes or no answer.

“She has the skills to be able to take in information, consider it, form an opinion and communicate that opinion,” O’Grady said.

O’Grady said that in her opinion, Jeskey had demonstrated that she has the skills to assist in her own defense.

Riley said that a test he administered on Friday to Jeskey in Augusta showed that she was most likely feigning or exaggerating her symptoms including reports of seeing demons and hearing voices. Under cross-examination, Riley admitted that the symptoms might be real.

The hearing is scheduled to last two or three days. Experts for the defense, Bangor psychologist John Lorenz and Richard Doiron, a Portland neuropsychologist, are expected to testify Wednesday that Jeskey is not competent to stand trial.

Jeskey has been held without bail since her arrest 10 days after her husband’s death.

If Jeskey were to be found not competent to stand trial, she could be committed to Riverview Psychiatric Hospital in Augusta until staff deemed her able to live in the community and not be a danger to herself or others.

She would face a sentence of between 25 years and life in prison if convicted of murder.


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