Wednesday, September 16, 1998

Alleged killer,
75, to take
mental test

William Scheblein was
given up for dead after
his wife's death in 1975

By Susan Kreifels


As a career policeman, Guy Peter learned that you can't assume anything. While Peter's wife believed the man who allegedly killed her mother 23 years ago without standing trial had died himself, Peter decided to make sure.

Retired, he had time to do some private investigating. First, he checked the list of those with Social Security numbers who had died.

William Scheblein's wasn't there.

Peter traveled 40,000 miles in four states for two months searching for him.

Police said Scheblein had fatally shot his former wife, Catherine, in Waikiki in 1975, then put the gun to his own head in a suicide attempt. Officials never charged Scheblein, thinking he wouldn't survive. He was transferred to a Veterans Administration Hospital in San Francisco in a vegetative state.

Last January, Peter tracked him down in Gulf Port, Fla. And though the defense says Scheblein, 75, is not fit to stand trial, Peter says he is.

"Maybe he's not 100 percent, but you can't excuse him from a homicide," Peter said.

Peter testified yesterday before Circuit Judge Victoria Marks, who ordered a mental fitness evaluation for Scheblein.

The defendant was arrested in Florida on April 17 on a murder warrant issued by a Hawaii judge. An Oahu grand jury returned a murder indictment against him April 23.

Scheblein pleaded not guilty in June, saying he had no memory of the dead woman.

His wife, Jane Scheblein, said the defendant is frail and nearly blind. He wears a bright yellow hard hat to cover the dent on the side of his head where the bullet struck in 1975.

Peter said he and his wife, Patti, daughter of the victim, cooked up a ruse to talk to Scheblein last January. They told Scheblein and his wife that Patti Peter had lost an expensive bracelet in the Schebleins' yard. Guy Peter caught Scheblein leaving his house and struck up a conversation with him to test his mind and memory. They talked about Sonny Bono's skiing death and Bono's old TV show with wife Cher, Peter said.

Scheblein described birds and vegetation he saw at a distance, Peter said, and spoke clearly and walked upright. The defendant told him about the houses he owned and his nursing home business.

Peter and his wife then followed the couple shopping. Peter said the Schebleins parked a distance away from the store and didn't have a handicapped parking sticker.

Michael Green, Scheblein's attorney, told Peter that he was not qualified to tell if Scheblein was fit to stand trial.

Green presented reports from two neurologists who doubted that Scheblein was fit to stand trial. One said Scheblein's mind tended to wander and his thought processes were scattered.

Catherine Scheblein's son, Joe Burgess, said his mother had moved to Hawaii to start a new life after her three-month marriage to William Scheblein.

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