By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK — A final resolution in the case of a Lincoln Park man charged with the murder of his sister more than a year ago remains awaiting a determination that the defendant is competent to stand trial.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Edward Ewell on June 21 approved the appointment of new defense counsel for Gerald Eugene Dennis, 45, who is charged with first-degree murder. As of last week, Ewell had yet to schedule a review of the most recent competency evaluation.
Dennis has been in custody since shortly after the February 2012 killing of his sister, Deborah Siefert. A neighbor had discovered Siefert lying at the foot of her stairs and was assumed injured. According to police reports, Siefert had been beaten to death, likely with a jack handle. Dennis was located the next day, and discovered to have had a history of drug abuse and mental illness prior to his having lived with Siefert in the 1500 block of College Avenue.
He was first arraigned in Lincoln Park’s 25th District Court, at which time a competency hearing had been held by order of Judge David Zelenak. In October, Dennis was deemed able to understand the first-degree murder charges against him and to participate in his own defense, and the case was bound over to circuit court.
During followup competency evaluations, Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller said another exam was ordered and there were changes in Dennis’ mental state. Dennis suffered a history of mental illness and drug abuse prior to having moved in to his sister’s house.
According to court records, the results of a defense-requested examination are expected Tuesday. Should Dennis again be found unable to understand the charges — for which he faces a life in prison if convicted— he will remain in custody at the forensics center until able to participate in his own defense.
(James Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)