Man accused of stabbing Sinton priest will stand trial

| January 27, 2010

CORPUS CHRISTI — SINTON — After about seven hours of testimony, a jury took seven minutes to determine that a man accused of stabbing a priest is competent to stand trial.

David Rodriguez is accused in a May incident in which the Rev. Shaji F. Varghese was repeatedly stabbed while standing in the side doorway of the sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Rodriguez is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Competency to stand trial is judged based on whether Rodriguez understands the judicial process, not on whether he was mentally ill at the time of a crime, expert witnesses testified.

He is scheduled to go to trial March 22 before District Judge Mike Welborn.

Rodriguez is bipolar and his disease includes psychosis, three experts for the state and defense agreed.

The symptoms started in 2007 — voices in his head and horrid nightmares, said Rodriguez’s sister Elsa Rodriguez, who testified for the defense.

Before then, “he was very smart, a good guy, never in trouble, a good father,” she testified. “No drugs, no alcohol, a very family guy.”

Defense psychologist Troy Martinez testified that Rodriguez wasn’t competent to stand trial because he does not believe Rodriguez could communicate adequately with his lawyer. But prosecution witnesses, psychologist Paul Hamilton and Dr. Raul Capitaine, a psychiatrist, deemed Rodriguez competent.

Prosecutor Retha Cable worked to discredit Martinez’s testimony, asking if Rodriguez had recognized him during the second evaluation. Martinez said Rodriguez had.

Cable also pointed out that a report from Martinez said Rodriguez had provided a synopsis of what happened the day of the stabbing.

Cable asked Martinez if Rodriguez’s version coincided with police offense reports.

“Yes,” he replied.

Rodriguez, sitting next to his attorney David Stith, looked vastly different from earlier court appearances. He has lost 60 pounds while he has been in the San Patricio County Jail, because he often refuses to eat because, his lawyer says, he fears being poisoned.

Rodriguez, who has grown a beard, wore a white shirt, gray slacks and black clip-on tie.

When the incident occurred, Rodriguez was fighting demons speaking in his head and may have believed that a priest could exorcise them, according to expert witnesses and his lawyer Tuesday.

Rodriguez also complained during evaluations that he needs more brain fluid and speaks of friends in his head, Martinez testified.

Tags: , ,

Category: Church Security