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Hearing to Decide if Accused Murderer is Competent

ATHENS — A judge in Bradford County will decide if an accused double murderer is competent to stand trial.

Experts testified Tuesday in court during the competency hearing for John DeSisti.

Desisti of Waverly, New York is in his mid 70’s and was set to go to trial earlier this year on murder charges.

State police charged him in the shotgun slayings of DeSisti’s cousin, Carol Keeffe and her husband David at the couple’s home near Athens in 2006.

But the trial was postponed in April when there was a question if DeSisti has dementia or if he is just acting.

It took four years for state police to make an arrest in the shotgun killings of David and Carol Keeffe.

The Athens-area couple was well known nd DeSisti is accused of murdering the couple over a property dispute with Carol, who was his cousin.

The arrest came in December 2010 but in court Tuesday, a forensic psychologist testified for the defense saying DeSisti sought treatment for mental health issues as investigators were ready to file charges against him.

Doctor Elliot Atkins told the judge that an evaluation in May 2011 showed Desisti had trouble speaking, getting around on his own, and struggled to understand complex ideas.

Prosecutors suggested it could have been an act to which Dr. Atkins replied “the greatest actor in the world couldn’t pull that off.”

The case was supposed to go to trial back in April but was postponed pending an evaluation. Experts for both sides decided DeSisti should go to a state hospital in western Pennysylvania for 40 days.

As a result, Dr. Frank Daly testified that DeSisti lacks true understanding of:

- the charges against him

- the idea of a plea bargain

- being able to help prepare a defense

Dr. Daly concluded that DeSisti is not competent to stand trial and there is no expectation he will be competent in the future.

The prosecution gets to call its own expert witnesses Wednesday or even members of DeSisti’s family.

The judge could rule as soon as the hearing is over whether DeSisti can stand trial in Bradford County.


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