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Judge sets new hearing after evaluations say Jonchuck is mentally incompetent

LARGO — Two evaluations have concluded the man accused of dropping his 5-year-old daughter off a bridge into Tampa Bay is mentally incompetent, but more time is needed to study the matter.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Chris Helinger heard briefly from lawyers on the matter Tuesday morning, and set a Tuesday followup hearing for John Jonchuck Jr., who has been arrested for first-degree murder.

Because Jonchuck is accused of such a shocking and irrational act, it's clear that his mental health will at least come under serious scrutiny.

But before the case can proceed against him, the judge needs to be sure Jonchuck can understand the case against him.

She did not rule on that point on Tuesday. At the followup hearing, attorneys can debate the meaning of the written evaluations received, and prosecutors could argue for another one.

They have not been made public.

If Judge Helinger determines Jonchuck is mentally incompetent, Jonchuck would be given mental health treatment in hopes that he could later become mentally capable. Once he is considered competent, the case against him would proceed.

A separate question likely to be addressed is whether Jonchuck was sane at the time of the murder, and legally responsible for it. Attorneys are nowhere near arguing that Jonchuck should be found not guilty. It's too early in the process for such an argument.

Although he was arrested and accused of first-degree murder, he has not yet been formally charged.

Contact Curtis Krueger at [email protected] Follow @ckruegertimes.

Judge sets new hearing after evaluations say Jonchuck is mentally incompetent 02/10/15 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 9:15pm]
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