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Rob Heyl
The first court appearance in New Britain Superior Court of accused mother killer James D'Aquila on Feb. 16, 2012. (Pool Photo / New Britain Herald, Rob Heyl)

Accused killer still can’t be tried, doctors say


SOUTHINGTON — A man accused of killing his mother last year was again found not competent to stand trial Tuesday, but has made some improvement, doctors said in court. James D’Aquila, 36, was first deemed incompetent on May 3, 2012, but experts said they believed he could be restored to competence by staff at the Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown. D’Aquila has been at Whiting since May 2012.

Dr. Mark Cotterell, a psychiatrist at Whiting, testified Tuesday that D’Aquila has made a slight improvement recently. Cotterell was able to have a 15-minute conversation with D’Aquila, the longest and most in depth to date. Cotterell said it included a short discussion about the court proceedings. D’Aquila said he knew he was going to court “because of his mother’s death.”

Prosecutor John Malone read from statements D’Aquila made to doctors and staff at Whiting, which included D’Aquila saying, “I’m at peace, I feel good, I’ll wait.” Malone also read a statement from D’Aquila in which he told his doctors “I know how I am going to plead,” but did not elaborate.

D’Aquila was charged with murder, murder in the commission of a felony, first-degree robbery and third-degree larceny after police say he kicked his 64-year-old mother, Donna D’Aquila, to death in her home at Jensen’s Trailer Park on South Road in Southington in February 2012.

D’Aquila had been committed to Whiting in 2002 and 2003, and was restored both times, Malone said. Malone asked whether the doctors at Whiting had looked at what medication was used in previous attempts to restore D’Aquila. Cotterell said the treatment team was looking at all records and reports.

Cotterell said D’Aquila was still exhibiting behavior that showed he was disturbed. D’Aquila responds to an internal stimulus and says he has conversations with God, Cotterell said. D’Aquila also has an internal dialogue that others can’t be a part of, and is difficult to engage with, he said.

Citing the the recent longer conversation, Cotterell believes D’Aquila can be restored within the time period allowed by law. State statute allows 18 months from the date a person is deemed incompetent, which would be Nov. 3 in this case. If he is not restored by that time, Cotterell said the case could go to probate court and a civil commitment ordered until D’Aquila is restored.

There is a statute of limitations for how long the state has to prosecute but the timeframe for a murder charge is “exceedingly long,” Cotterell said. If D’Aquila is deemed restored after a civil commitment is ordered, it is possible that the criminal court could bring the case back to trial, Cotterell said.

Judge Hillary Strackbein found D’Aquila incompetent to stand trial, but continued the case for 60 days instead of 90, due to the reported improvement. Another competency hearing is scheduled for Sept. 3.



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