Man found competent for trial in sister’s murder

Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — Two separate evaluations resulted in a Lincoln Park man being declared competent to stand trial in the death of his sister.

Gerald Eugene Dennis, 45, had been charged with first-degree murder for the February 2012 death of his sister, Deborah Seifert. Dennis lived with Seifert in her home in the 1500 block of College Avenue, and had been taken into custody the day after her death.

According to police, Seifert had been discovered by a neighbor beaten to death, likely with a jack handle. Dennis was located the next day, and arraigned in 25th District Court.

Dennis had a history of drug abuse and mental illness, and a competency evaluation was first ordered in 2012 by 25th District Court Judge David Zelenak, and again this year by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Edward Ewell. Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller said the evaluations had to be completed before proceeding to trial.

“He was referred and evaluated by the Forensic Center and then, at the request of the defense, he was later evaluated by an independent expert,” Miller said.

Miller said the finding indicated that Dennis understands the charges against him, the process, “and that he is capable of participating with his defense.”

Ewell confirmed the evaluations in June, at which time a court-appointed attorney, James Schlaff, was assigned to Dennis’s defense. Pre-trial hearings concluded on Sept. 20, and a final conference is scheduled for Oct. 25 before a jury trial in February 2014.

(James Mitchell can be reached at