Murder Suspect Challenges Psychiatric Findings - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Murder Suspect Challenges Psychiatric Findings

Burlington, Vt -- March 30, 2006

It was a brutal killing that shook Burlington. Now the man accused may be headed to trial.

Police say Gerald Montgomery,34, killed Laura Winterbottom. But for a year lawyers have sparred over Montgomery's mental competence to stand trial.

Since his arrest one year ago, Gerald Montgomery's prosecution for the kidnap-rape-and murder of a Burlington woman has been in legal limbo. Thursday his wife provided testimony that could finally get him to trial.

Leona Montgomery, testifying as a state witness under subpoena, said that her husband displayed no obvious signs of delusional behavior or mental illness during the years she spent with him between 1997 and March 2005 when he was charged with murder. On cross-examination she testified that there were times when he appeared depressed and withdrawn.

Her testimony directly contradicted what her husband Gerald reportedly told psychiatrists one year ago following his arrest for murder.

Police say he kidnapped, raped,and fatally beat Laura Winterbottom, a Burlington woman police say Montgomery had never met until the night he randomly selected her as she left a Burlington bar.

After his arrest Montgomery told psychiatrists he had been hearing voices that told him to kill, according to court documents. But those doctors have now determined that Montgomery is mentally competent for trial.

He and his lawyers are challenging the finding and repeatedly objected as prosecutors questioned his wife about his behavior during their years together.

Judge Michael Kupersmith overruled all but two of more than two dozen objections.

Several other witnesses testified that Montgomery displayed no signs of mental problems in the days before and following the murder.

It was the first day of testimony that Judge Michael Kupersmith will consider to determine whether Montgomery is competent to stand trial.

In two weeks the two psychiatrists who found Montgomery competent for trial will testify --as well as a defense-hired psychiatrist who is expected to testify that he is not.

He is being held at the state mental hospital in Waterbury and his lawyers revealed in court that he is taking powerful drugs designed to treat mental illness.

The medications were an issue at the start of the hearing. Montgomery's lawyers attempted to postpone the hearing alleging that their client was over-medicated and too sleepy to participate. But the judge didn't buy it. Judge Kupersmith called Montgomery's doctors who reportedly confirmed that Montgomery had been properly medicated.

Brian Joyce - Channel 3 News

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