By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, November 24, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- Helen Garland, accused of beating her 85-year-old sister to death in 2004, may never be prosecuted for the crime.
Charges against the 75-year-old may be dropped by a Rockingham County Superior Court judge in light of experts ruling she is still incompetent to stand trial, according to Senior Assistant Attorney General Will Delker.
"The issue now is whether she is a danger to herself or others and if she should be committed into an institution," Delker said.
A hearing to determine whether Garland, who is currently free on bail, is a danger to herself or others is scheduled for next month. The hearing was supposed to take place this week, but was rescheduled because prosecutors didn't receive a report on Garland's status until Monday.
Delker said if the court rules Garland is not a danger to herself or others, the charges against her will be dismissed without prejudice.
On the other hand, if the judge rules Garland is considered dangerous then the state will get the go-ahead to move forward with a commitment process that would take place in probate court.
Garland was ruled incompetent to stand trial last December and efforts to restore her competency with cognitive enhancing drugs were unsuccessful.
Competency is defined in narrow legal terms as a defendant having the ability to understand charges against him or her and his or her ability to assist legal counsel with the defense.
Dr. Albert Druktenis, who holds degrees in psychology and law and conducted the competency test on Garland, testified she shows early signs of dementia.
While she appears to be an average elderly woman in many ways, Druktenis said closer observation shows at times she is distracted and confused and her memory blurred when it comes to dealing with the facts of the case and events leading to her sister's death.
State law states that if a defendant is still incompetent after one year of the initial ruling then the charges are dismissed without prejudice.
"Charges can be brought back if she ever does regain competency," Delker said.
Garland was arrested March 26, 2004, on three counts of first-degree assault and one count of first-degree murder. She is accused of beating Alice Keyho to death in their shared home in Hampton. Garland allegedly admitted to police she was unhappy her sister was living with her and would beat Keyho on a regular basis.
When asked to elaborate further on her alleged abuse of Keyho, Garland told police, "I don't hit her often. She'd grab hold of my hand so I couldn't hit her again. I would never hit her in the head, it was around her chin."
Garland also told police "she didn't mean to kill her sister."
An autopsy report showed Keyho had 22 broken ribs and was beaten from "head to toe." According to police reports, marks on her body matched two sets of wedding and engagement rings worn by Garland at the time.