TAMPA — The former neo-Nazi who told police he killed two of his roommates because they mocked his conversion to Islam will be sent to a state-funded mental facility until his doctors declare he is mentally competent to stand trial.
Devon Arthurs wasn't in court Wednesday for his second competency hearing before Hillsborough County Judge Laura Ward. In the first, Ward granted Assistant State Attorney Ronald Gale's request for a second expert opinion on whether Arthurs is competent enough to understand the charges he would face in court – two counts of premeditated first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault with intent to commit a felony and three counts of kidnapping while in possession of a firearm.
"It appears to me in some areas of the report that the defendant exhibited an understanding of some of the issues in question," Gale said in the Feb. 1 hearing.
But in less than three minutes of discussion, Ward said that a second court-appointed expert, psychologist Dr. Daniel Patz , agreed with neuropsychologist Dr. Yolanda Leon's conclusion that Arthurs suffers from mental illness and is "incompetent to proceed."
"There is no lesser restrictive alternative at this time than the Florida State Hospital for Mr. Arthurs, so he will be sent there and work, hopefully, toward restoring his competency," Ward said.
Arthurs told investigators that's what he's really wanted all along.
"I think I'd much rather be at a mental hospital, where I should have been," he said the night of his arrest. "My family has been telling me to go to a hospital. ...Obviously, I don't feel like I'm capable of living day to day like any normal citizen."
Recordings from his May 19 arrest reveal Arthurs' waning trust in his own sanity after the shootings of Jeremy Himmelman, 22, and Andrew Oneschuk, 18, with an assault rifle inside their shared Tampa Palms condominium. The recorded conversations began after Tampa police arrested Arthurs at a nearby smoke shop.
Arthurs' spoke to officers for hours, at times appearing to rationalize his actions. He told investigators he founded the neo-Nazi group Attomwafen Division with a fourth roommate, Brandon Russell, and Himmelman and Oneschuck were members of the group. Arthurs said his conversion to Islam angered his roommates. He said he suspected they were planning acts of terrorism after he discovered a stock pile of explosive chemicals in the garage.
Russell, who wasn't home when his roommates were killed, later admitted to owning the bomb-making materials and was sentenced to five years in federal prison.
Arthurs told investigators he considered contacting the FBI.
"In hindsight," Arthurs told investigators, "It's very stupid what I've done ... If I could go back and do something over, I would sign myself into a hospital and work on my anger issues and rational thinking skills."
Contact Anastasia Dawson at email@example.com or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.
TAMPA BAY TIMES PREVIOUS COVERAGE
Defendant in neo-Nazi murders found incompetent, state wants second opinion (Feb. 1, 2018)
Suspect in neo-Nazi murders tells of anger problems, says 'I might be kind of sick' (w/video Jan. 30, 2018)
Neo-Nazi Florida National Guard soldier gets five years in prison on bombmaking charges (Jan. 9, 2018)
Former neo-Nazi won't face death penalty if convicted of killing roommates in Tampa (Aug. 10, 2017)
National Guard 'neo-Nazi' aimed to hit Miami nuclear plant, roommate says (June 13, 2017)
Arrest of 'neo-Nazi' soldier highlights extremists' links to U.S. military (June 12, 2017)
Families dispute claims that slain Tampa Palms roommates shared neo-Nazi beliefs (May 25, 2017)
Roommates in Tampa Palms slaying case never outgrew Nazi sympathies, friend says (May 23, 2017)