NEW PORT RICHEY — Sally Carl worries about the day her former son-in-law becomes free.
"If he's out and not taking his meds," she said, "nobody's safe."
After spending the past three years in mental health custody, Charles Edward Dear was found fit to stand trial on second-degree murder and arson charges last week. Dear, 48, had previously been found mentally incompetent to stand trial in the death of Theresa Jones, who was murdered in 2008. Authorities say Dear strangled her with a wire, buried her in a shallow grave in her back yard and set her house on fire. Jones was 46 and had a 14-year-old son. Authorities said Dear had rented a room from Jones at the 4635 Darlington Road home in Holiday. Dear confessed to the crimes, authorities said.
"It took awhile for doctors to stabilize him," said Assistant State Attorney Chris LaBruzzo. He wouldn't disclose Dear's diagnosis but said Dear is on the correct medications now, and doctors who have seen him have said he is competent to begin the criminal court proceedings. LaBruzzo said defense attorneys and Circuit Judge William Webb agreed on Dear's mental competency.
He said the defense is drafting a plea to submit to him, in which Dear would admit guilt, accept a certain number of years in prison and avoid trial. Dear's attorney did not return a call for comment.
"We review any reasonable offers," LaBruzzo said.
Dear's next hearing is in April. LaBruzzo said that either the offer will be accepted on that date or the case will push forward toward trial.
Jones' sister, Cheryl Gile, said she was glad to hear that Dear's case is moving forward.
"Absolutely," she said, but she declined to comment more.
Carl said her daughter was married to Dear for nearly a decade and they have two children. She said Dear worked in construction.
"He was a nice young man," Carl said.
She said her former son-in-law suffered from bipolar disorder but was fine for years. Then, she said, his medication stopped working and he became a different person. Violent. Strange. He was convicted of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and served more than two years in prison. Carl said Dear had tried to attack his mother with a knife.
Her daughter feared for her safety and that of the children. She filed for divorce.
Dear was released from prison in June 2007. Jones was murdered the following year, and Dear was arrested and charged with the crime in 2009.
"He just wasn't himself," Carl said of the person Dear became when his medication failed.
"He never would have done that kind of thing," she said.
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.