TAMPA — It took 14 months, nine mental health experts, and at least a dozen court hearings, but Devon Arthurs has finally been deemed incompetent to face trial in a 2017 double murder in New Tampa.
On Monday, a judge declared that Arthurs, 21, is not competent to proceed in court. It is the second time a judge has made such a finding about Arthurs, whom doctors have diagnosed with schizophrenia and autism, among other conditions.
Arthurs is accused of shooting and killing his two roommates in May 2017 in the townhouse they shared.
The finding does not mean that Arthurs will escape prosecution. It means he will undergo mental health treatment until he is well enough to return to court. How long that will take is uncertain.
Arthurs previously underwent a year of treatment and testing in a state hospital after he was first found incompetent in 2018. Hospital doctors deemed him well enough for court last March and he returned to jail.
But subsequent mental health exams put his competency back into question.
Arthurs lived with Jeremy Himmelman, 22, and Andrew Oneschuk, 18, for a few weeks before the May 2017 shootings. They shared a townhouse with a fourth man, Brandon Russell, who was the founder of the neo-Nazi group known as Atomwaffen Division. Arthurs was once a member.
While Russell was out of town one day, Arthurs shot and killed Himmelman and Oneschuk with an assault rifle, according to police. He then went to a leasing office nearby and spoke with several people before heading to a nearby smoke shop, where he held several others at gunpoint, police said.
Russell, a former National Guardsman, arrived shortly thereafter to a large police presence and his roommates’ bodies. When investigators searched the townhouse, they discovered white supremacist and anti-government literature, along with explosives and bomb-making materials. The items were said to belong to Russell, who later pleaded guilty to federal charges and was sentenced to five years in prison.
When Arthurs was arrested, he called himself “Khalid” and claimed he was a Muslim, according to police records. He told police that he killed his roommates after they mocked his conversion to Islam.
In a lengthy hearing in December, five mental health experts testified about their observations of Arthurs.
Michael Maher, a psychiatrist who has examined Arthurs four times, said he has consistently found him to be incompetent.
He described bizarre behaviors: Arthurs would quickly become distracted, his speech unintelligible, when asked open-ended questions. He experienced auditory hallucinations — voices that criticize and accuse him. He also expressed a belief that he could communicate with his dead roommates, and feel and smell things related to the shootings.
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There was also a pattern of self-injury. Every few minutes, the doctor said, Arthurs would place his hands on his throat and choke himself to the point that he began to lose consciousness.
Other doctors observed the behavior and described it as involuntary and compulsive.
Yolanda Leon, a neuropsychologist, testified that Arthurs professed a conversion to Christianity, but that he seemed to have minimal understanding of the faith.
The findings of other doctors varied, and there were more exams to be done. The case transferred to a different judge after Arthurs’ public defender questioned the impartiality of the judge who heard the experts testify.
In March, Assistant Public Defender Mike Peacock asked a judge to find Arthurs incompetent. He noted that most of the experts had opined as much. He also noted the lengthy time since his return from the state hospital.
But a judge ordered two more doctors’ exams. The reports came back in April. Then, on Monday, finally, came the ruling.