LE MARS, Iowa – Doctors are continuing their efforts to restore a Merrill, Iowa man’s mental capacity so he can stand trial for murder, but progress appears to have slowed.
District Judge James Daane noted in an order filed Monday that the psychiatrist’s report said Thomas Knapp had “stagnated” in his recovery. Daane has left a previously scheduled capacity hearing for February 21 at Plymouth County Court.
In August, Senior Judge Duane Hoffmeyer ruled that Knapp was incompetent to appear in court on May 11, 2020, fatally shooting Kevin Juzek and suspending all court proceedings until when his powers can be restored.
Knapp was admitted to the Iowa Department of Corrections’ Forensic Psychiatric Hospital on Nov. 2. In a 30-day progress report filed with the court on December 3, a psychiatrist said Knapp was in agreement. and has been provisionally diagnosed as mild to moderate. neurocognitive disorder and should be hospitalized.
A 60-day progress report filed Monday announced that Knapp’s recovery has been delayed. By law, another progress report is required within 60 days.
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Knapp, 83, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and willful bodily harm. He is accused of shooting Juzek, 51, in the stomach and chest with a 20-round shotgun during a disturbance at a home in rural Merrill.
Knapp’s mental state has been an issue since the case began. An earlier psychiatric examination found Knapp unfit to stand trial, but the assessment report mentioned the possibility that Knapp would have to undergo another MRI or brain scan.
The case was further complicated by Knapp’s hearing loss, which made it difficult for him to communicate with his attorney and follow court proceedings, even with a hearing aid fitted. The December psychiatrist’s report said Knapp’s hearing loss was a problem, but doctors were able to work around the issue.
Knapp pleaded not guilty in a separate case to willful bodily harm, domestic abuse using or displaying a dangerous weapon, and two counts of domestic abuse on the first charge. . He is accused of hitting his wife in the head with a stick and breaking her arm in the same disturbance in which Juzek was killed.
Both cases will be heard at the same time.