DADE CITY — A man with a history of mental illness who is accused of stabbing his case worker to death has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder.
Lucious Smith, 53, said little during the Monday morning hearing before Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa. But Chief Assistant Public Defender Tom Hanlon said his client would be tested to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.
Smith is accused in the Dec. 10 stabbing of Stephanie Nicole Ross, a 25-year-old case worker for a health management company under contract with Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor and disabled. Ross of Lakeland had visited Smith at his 37020 Coleman Ave. apartment several times and was alone during the Dec. 10 visit. Her job was to make sure Smith, who is on medication, was receiving the health care he needed.
Witnesses saw Ross screaming as she ran from the apartment. Smith chased after her, slashing at her with a butcher knife, according to Dade City police. A stranger rushed Ross to the hospital, where she died later that day.
Dade City police said Ross had made notes in her case file that expressed safety concerns and said no one should visit Smith alone. Her employer has said they were unaware of safety concerns.
Assistant State Attorney Manuel Garcia said Smith has an appointment with the state psychiatrist to be evaluated. He told members of Ross' family after the hearing that Smith could receive anywhere between 24 years in prison to life.
Eight of Ross' relatives sat in the front row during the hearing Monday. It marked the first time they had came face to face with Smith. They declined to comment after the hearing.
"It's pretty emotional for them right now," said Brad Stewart, an attorney who is related by marriage to the family.