Saturday, January 30, 1999

Man, 75, declared
mentally unfit
for murder trial

By Debra Barayuga


A Circuit Court judge has declared an elderly man, who was charged with killing his wife and turning the gun on himself more than 20 years ago, mentally unfit to stand trial.

Judge Victoria Marks yesterday suspended court proceedings for William Scheblein, 75, until a three-member panel of doctors can examine him to determine the likelihood of his being fit to proceed in the future. He will also be assessed on whether he is dangerous.

If he is found to be unfit and not a danger, the charges against Scheblein likely will be dismissed and he'll be released, said Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Takata.

However, if found unfit but a danger, he can be committed to the Hawaii State Hospital.

Scheblein, arrested in Florida and extradited here, pleaded not guilty in June to killing Catherine Scheblein in May 1975, in Honolulu. No charges were filed against him then because he wasn't expected to survive the shot to the head.

Scheblein's attorney says he does not remember his former wife.

Since December, Scheblein has been in the intensive-care unit at Straub Hospital for an infection.

His doctor says he may be hospitalized indefinitely and may not come out alive, said his attorney, Michael Green.

A panel of court-appointed panelists in December had concluded that Scheblein was not fit to stand trial.

Joseph Burgess, son of Catherine Scheblein and one of nine family members who attended the hearing yesterday, said they aren't giving up.

"Our mother's dead as a result of his actions and it looks to me like he's getting away with murder -- again," he said.

The family believes Scheblein is faking his condition to avoid trial. They say the basis of the panel's evaluation is "flawed."

They submitted a letter to the court drawing attention to 11 points in the panel's report that clearly show Scheblein is exaggerating his illness, Burgess said.

The family also has videotaped Scheblein performing everyday tasks -- presenting a picture unlike the shuffling figure who walks with a cane in court.

"It's extremely difficult to accept. This case should have been brought before the criminal justice system 23 years ago," Burgess said, adding that prosecutors haven't been aggressive enough in pursuing the case.

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