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After treatment, man accused in 2017 Tampa neo-Nazi case returns to court

Devon Arthurs, accused in a double murder, spent more than a year undergoing mental health treatment in a state facility.
 
Devon Arthurs appears in a mug shot taken upon his return to Hillsborough County jail on Thursday.
Devon Arthurs appears in a mug shot taken upon his return to Hillsborough County jail on Thursday. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]
Published June 10, 2022|Updated June 10, 2022

TAMPA — The man accused in a bizarre 2017 Tampa double murder returned this week to the Hillsborough County Jail to await his next court hearing after more than a year of treatment in a state mental health facility.

Devon Arthurs arrived in jail a little before 8 p.m. Thursday, records show. His next hearing is set for July 13.

Since 2020, Arthurs has received competency restoration treatment after experts told a judge that his mental condition made him incapable of a rational understanding of the court proceedings. They diagnosed with schizophrenia and autism, among other conditions.

Now, doctors believe Arthurs is well enough to proceed, according to court records.

He spent time in what’s known as the Developmental Disabilities Defendant Program, records state.

The program is designed to address the needs of people charged with crimes who also have been declared incompetent to stand trial due to disabilities.

A judge at the July hearing will likely appoint experts to reevaluate Arthurs’ mental state. If experts agree he is now competent, his case will continue to move toward trial. In the interim, a judge has ordered that Arthurs is to receive “maintenance training” in jail to ensure his mental state does not regress.

Arthurs, now 23, was arrested in May 2017 after the killings of Andrew Oneschuk, 18, and Jeremy Himmelman, 22. The two men were shot to death with an assault rifle in the Tampa Palms apartment where they had lived with Arthurs and another man, Brandon Russell.

Russell, a former National Guardsman, was out of town when the killings occurred.

Shortly after the shooting, police said, Arthurs went to a nearby smoke shop, where he held several people at gunpoint while rambling about Islam, according to court records. Tampa police arrived and persuaded him to surrender.

In an interview with detectives, Arthurs later said his roommates were neo-Nazis and that they’d ridiculed his conversion to the Muslim faith. Families of both victims denied they harbored such beliefs.

Related: Suspect in neo-Nazi murders tells of anger problem, says 'I might be kind of sick'
A screenshot from a Tampa police video interrogation shows Devon Arthurs talking with a police detective.
A screenshot from a Tampa police video interrogation shows Devon Arthurs talking with a police detective.
Brandon Russell appears in a 2017 arrest photo.
Brandon Russell appears in a 2017 arrest photo.

Russell arrived home at about the time Arthurs was being arrested. He found his roommates dead and ran outside.

When police searched the home, they found a stash of bomb-making materials in an attached garage. They also found white supremacist literature in the house and a framed photograph of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

The items were said to belong to Russell, who’d founded a loose-knit, largely online-based neo-Nazi group known as Atomwaffen Division. Arthurs was previously a member and claimed in his police interview that the group had plans to attack a nuclear plant and other targets.

Russell was not involved in the murders, nor was he ever accused of planning any violent acts. But he later pleaded guilty to federal charges for possessing explosives. He was sentenced to five years in prison and has since been released.

Arthurs, meanwhile, has continued to drift through court, jails and hospitals. He was first declared incompetent in 2018 and sent to a state hospital before returning to court. But as his case began to move, his attorneys once again raised concerns about his mental condition.

Related: Experts: One-time neo-Nazi charged in double murder has schizophrenia, autism

In 2019, psychological experts testified that Arthurs experienced auditory and visual hallucinations and expressed paranoid and irrational beliefs. They also described an alarming pattern of self-injury, in which Arthurs would compulsively and involuntarily choke himself to the point of unconsciousness.

One expert said Arthurs may be incapable of being fully restored to competency. If that’s true, he would be unable to face trial. A judge would have to determine what to do.

Florida law includes a process in which defendants deemed non-restorable can receive a civil commitment to a secure facility for further treatment.