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Murder suspect remains in legal limbo

Thursday, May. 29 | By Julie Taylor
Judy Deal's mugshot from 2011. Her current appearance is drastically altered--her left is is closed softly, with no bruising, and her hair has turned gray.
Fauquier Circuit Judge Jeffrey W. Parker ordered the Commonwealth's Attorney's office should provide a doctor to mentally evaluate a woman accused of shooting her husband to death in 2011.

Judy K. Deal, who was charged with first-degree murder in November of 2011, attended a hearing today to determine whether she was mentally capable to stand trial. When she left, the question was still unresolved.

However, because of defense attorney Chris Whelan's statement, the hearing has been pushed back.

Deal appeared frail in the courtroom, legs shackled together, her left eye closed, expression placid.

Deal's attorney Chris Whelan Whelan said the Virginia codes land them in "a bit of a black hole." Deal's case is unique, he said, and the state code does not provide clear guidance on how to proceed.

On Nov. 20, 2011, Deal allegedly shot her estranged husband, John M. Deal, 60, in the torso at his home on Crest Hill Road, according to a search warrant. Deal then turned the gun on herself, shooting herself in the head.

In the intervening time, Deal has undergone mental rehabilitation.

The psychologist who was hired by the defense assessed Deal's competency and deemed her to be "unrestorable incompetent," Whelan said.

In a May 10 report by Dr. Scott Bender of University of Virginia Hospital, he wrote that Deal "performed similarly to NGRI [Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity] acquittals who were thought to be faking bad" on assessments commonly used to determine legal competency.

Another report from Bender said Deal's speech was variable but also “sometimes intact,” her speech and comprehension consistently deteriorated when asked about her husband.

The hearing to determine Deal's competency to stand trail will now take place on July 29. Meanwhile, question of whether Deal should remain at Central State Psychiatric Hospital, where she has been under around-the-clock observation, will be decided within a week.

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