Wednesday, May 26, 1999

Murder suspect ‘not fit’
to be tried; victim’s
family unhappy

By Debra Barayuga


A 76-year-old man charged with killing his wife nearly 20 years ago won't be tried for her murder.

Judge Victoria Marks today dismissed the second-degree murder charge against William Scheblein with prejudice, meaning he can't be tried again. Her ruling was based on the findings and testimony of a panel of independent court-appointed doctors.

Guy Peter, a retired New York police detective and the husband of Patti Peter, whose mother, Catherine Scheblein, was slain in Hawaii in May 1975 said the court's ruling has hurt the entire family and that William Scheblein has "gotten away with murder" yet again.

Family members believe Scheblein has been faking his condition and criticized the prosecutor's office for mishandling the case.

"It was shoved through the cracks before, and it was shoved through the cracks again," Peter said.

Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Takata said he did everything possible and within the law to bring Scheblein to trial.

"Given his physical and mental condition, he was not found fit," Takata said.

Independent doctors who examined Scheblein found that he could not retain or retrieve information. They could say something to him and the next second he wouldn't remember.

If a defendant can't understand the proceedings against him or assist in his defense, he can't go to trial, Takata said.

Scheblein will not be committed to a state hospital because he has not been found to be a danger to society, Takata added.

Scheblein initially escaped prosecution in 1975 because he was not expected to survive a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He allegedly shot his wife, then himself. Catherine Scheblein allegedly had fled to Honolulu to escape their abusive relationship. Through digging by Peter, police learned only last year that Scheblein was alive and living in Florida. He was extradited to Hawaii, where he pleaded not guilty last June.

The trial was suspended in January when he was found mentally unfit to stand trial and more examinations ordered.

Peter said he gathered evidence of Scheblein malingering -- walking, talking and singing in church -- and presented them to the prosecutor's office but "they didn't do a thing."

Takata said their investigation found no evidence of malingering. He said Scheblein was followed and videotaped, but the tapes would not have made a difference.

"They're only an indication that he can walk, talk or sing," Takata said, and do not meet the legal test for being fit for trial.

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