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Riverhead man found not competent to stand trial in murder case

11/01/2019 3:16 PM |

A Riverhead man accused of killing his wife in August was found “incapacitated” to stand trial by two competency tests and will be sent to a medical facility operated by the New York State Office of Mental Health, according to Judge Mark Cohen.

Robert Brown, 65, appeared before Judge Cohen in Suffolk County Court in Riverside Friday. Mr. Brown fatally shot his wife Aug. 27 at their home, prosecutors said, and he was indicted by a grand jury on charges of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

“The trial is on hold,” said Ian Fitzgerald, Mr. Brown’s court-appointed attorney in an interview.

Mr. Fitzgerald said his client will be re-examined by doctors at the New York State Office of Mental Health facility.

“If they determine that he’s not incapacitated, he’ll come back here to face trial,” he said. “If they determine he is not competent, they will seek a retention order from the courts. The commitment order only lasts for a year, so if they want to keep him there, they will have to come back to the court and say ‘this person is still not competent, we need to keep him here,’ and the court has to basically reorder that he be kept there.”

At the time of his arrest, some neighbors indicated that he might be suffering from some sort of dementia.

On Friday, after he was being pushed out of the courtroom in a wheelchair, Mr. Brown laughed out loud and said “I knew that before this.”

Police said Mr. Brown barricaded himself inside his Doris Avenue home for nearly four hours while police ordered him to come out following reports that he was walking outside the house with a gun.

After police broke down the front door, they arrested Mr. Brown and found his 71-year-old wife, Sara, dead from a gunshot wound.

He was later indicted by a grand jury. The top charge carries a maximum term of life imprisonment.

Riverhead police said in a criminal complaint that “the charges were based in part on oral admission of [Mr. Brown] where in sum and substance, he stated, ‘I shot my wife with a pistol in the neck area.’ ”

Mr. Fitzpatrick requested the court order a competency test at a court appearance in September to ensure Mr. Brown understands the charges and can assist in his defense.

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