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Mikese Morse deemed incompetent for trial in death of New Tampa father

Mikese Morse, led into court here for a July hearing, will be sent to a mental health center now that a judge has ruled him incompetent to stand trial. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times]
Mikese Morse, led into court here for a July hearing, will be sent to a mental health center now that a judge has ruled him incompetent to stand trial. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
Published Nov. 26, 2018

TAMPA — It took five months for the court system to affirm what Mikese Morse's mother and father have been saying all along: Their son is too mentally ill to face a murder trial for driving into a father and his two sons as they were riding bicycles in New Tampa.

Circuit Judge Mark Kiser declared Morse incompetent to proceed Monday after reviewing the second of two psychological assessments.

Morse, 31, will be sent to a state hospital to undergo mental health treatment before the prosecution can continue.

"We are so happy that we can finally get our son medical treatment," his mother, Khadeeja Morse, said after the brief court hearing. "The fact that it has taken five months is heartbreaking."

Morse suffers from schizophrenia. His parents have said they unsuccessfully sought treatment for him in the decade before his arrest.

Morse, 31, faces several charges including first-degree murder related to the June 24 death of Pedro Aguerreberry. The father and his two sons, 3 and 8, were riding bicycles on a path along New Tampa Boulevard when Morse drove past in a Dodge Avenger. Police said Morse made a U-turn, tore across a swath of grass and plowed into the trio. The boys were injured. Their father died.

Morse kept driving and later abandoned his car, police said. He was arrested at his parents' home a few miles away. The same day, Morse posted videos to his Instagram page in which he rambled about "the devil" and "energies changing" inside him. Days earlier, he had been committed to a mental health center under the state's Baker Act, but was later released.

His parents have decried what they have called a failure of Florida's mental health system. After Morse was jailed, they managed to obtain guardianship rights, allowing them to make legal decisions on their son's behalf. Part of that process involved psychological assessments that were separate from those conducted in the criminal case.

Still, a finding that he was incompetent to face trial was slow to come, in part because Morse refused to cooperate with the doctors assigned to examine him.

During one court appearance in late August, Morse began rambling to the judge, blurting out a dubious confession to another homicide before Judge Kiser ordered him removed from the courtroom.

His family said the outburst was just another manifestation of his profound mental illness.

An attorney for Morse asked that he be sent to a hospital in Gainesville to make it easier for his family to maintain contact and monitor his treatment. The judge said it would be up to the Department of Children and Families to determine where Morse receives competency treatment.

Once doctors determine that Morse has been restored to competency, he will return to face the criminal charges.

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.