Daniel Whalon sobbed as he entered a Burlington courtroom Monday. He's charged with fatally stabbing his secret lover, Ralph Bell, in the neck and chest. The 25-year-old Burlington man did not enter a plea Monday. Instead, the judge ordered him to go to the Vermont State Hospital for an in-patient mental health evaluation.
"This is a pretty standard practice," Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan said. "Obviously in this case we want to make sure that all the rules are followed, that in fact Mr. Whalon is competent to face the charges that the state has alleged against him."
Whalon will continue to be held without bail. The state says the evaluation will determine if he's able to understand the charges and comprehend the advice given to him by his lawyers. He is facing a second-degree murder charge-- a crime that carries a sentence of 20 years to life in prison. This delay was tough for the victim's grieving family, but the state says it's a critical safeguard of the legal system.
"It wouldn't change anything with the state's charges. It certainly is going to determine which road we travel down in the criminal process," Donovan said.
If Whalon is found to be competent he will be tried for second-degree murder. If not, the prosecution says it would have to adjust its strategy. But the state's attorney did not say if that means Whalon would avoid jail time. The competency results are expected to take a few weeks.
A charge of murder in the second degree means there was not premeditation or planning on Whalon's part. But the police investigation continues. And if they find evidence pointing to a planned murder, that charge could be upgraded to first degree or additional charges could be filed.
Wednesday, April 16 2014 12:07 AM EDT2014-04-16 04:07:42 GMT
Rain, flooding and now snow. This weather rollercoaster is causing problems all around our region. Temps have dropped so the heavy rainfall has switched to snow. Rivers are spilling their banks, roadsMore >>
Rain, flooding and now snow. This weather rollercoaster is causing problems all around our region. Temps have dropped so the heavy rainfall has switched to snow.More >>
Tuesday, April 15 2014 8:08 PM EDT2014-04-16 00:08:37 GMT
Flood warnings are in effect around our region as heavy rains begin to move through. There is already localized flooding at some of the typical problem spots, like the wrong-way bridge on Route 15 inMore >>
Parts of our region are already flooding and others are bracing as heavy rains move through. Not only is rain falling fast, but warm temperatures Monday melted snow, adding to high waters.More >>
Tuesday, April 15 2014 7:06 PM EDT2014-04-15 23:06:00 GMT
A man had to be pulled from the Black River in Springfield Tuesday morning. The Hartford Fire Department says it's working to pull a man out from the river. They say he got stuck about 75 feet out inMore >>
Vermont emergency workers have rescued a man stranded in the middle of a treacherous section of river in downtown Springfield. More >>
Tuesday, April 15 2014 5:02 PM EDT2014-04-15 21:02:17 GMT
The sex crimes trial of a former prison guard has been delayed. Jury draw was scheduled to begin Monday for Richard Gallow. He is charged with sexual assault and lewd and lascivious conduct on a femaleMore >>
The sex crimes trial of a former prison guard has been delayed.More >>
Tuesday, April 15 2014 7:27 PM EDT2014-04-15 23:27:17 GMT
Arson at the Albany Fire Department was an inside job. On Tuesday former firefighter Elmer Joerg pleaded no contest to setting the blaze. Investigators say the former volunteer was caught on camera settingMore >>
An arson at the Albany Fire Department was an inside job.More >>
Tuesday, April 15 2014 7:26 PM EDT2014-04-15 23:26:03 GMT
There was a plea deal for a man who triggered a 5 hour standoff in Newport last fall. Derek Niles pleaded no contest to reckless endangerment Tuesday. He got a deferred sentence and will be on probationMore >>
There was a plea deal for a man who triggered a 5 hour standoff in Newport last fall. More >>