DONIPHAN, Mo. -- A Ripley County judge ordered a mental examination for a Doniphan teenager, while the teen's girlfriend and her parents were ordered to stand trial Tuesday morning for their alleged roles in the murder of an elderly couple found dead inside their burned home.
Keith A. Boyles, 18, was supposed to appear before Associate Circuit Judge Thomas Swindle for a preliminary hearing, but instead motions were heard in his case.
Following Boyles in separate appearances were David A. Youngblood, 46, his 33-year-old wife, Melissa M. Youngblood, and their 18-year-old daughter, Chantale N. Youngblood, all of Doniphan.
Boyles and the Youngbloods are charged with two counts of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, first-degree arson and the unclassified felony of armed criminal action in connection with the July 10 deaths of Edgar Atkinson, 81, and Bonnie Chase, 69.
The bodies of Atkinson and Chase were found in their burning Current View, Mo., home. An autopsy determined Atkinson died of gunshot wounds to the head and upper torso. A cause of death for Chase was not immediately known.
Before Boyles' preliminary hearing beginning, Swindle said, there were six motions pending.
Boyles' attorneys, Thomas Marshall and Janice Zembles with the Capital Public Defender's Office in Columbia, Mo., " raised the issue regarding their client's competency," said Assistant Attorney General Kevin Zoellner.
Swindle said if he ordered an examination it would call for Boyles being sent to a Department of Mental Health facility "at your request. … he would remain here and be transported up for that purpose."
Marshall asked Swindle to commit Boyles to the Department of Mental Health for an evaluation to determine if he is competent to aid in his own defense, not his "mental state at the time of the offense."
According to Marshall, a private psychiatric examination already has been completed and the examining doctor found Boyles suffers from "major depression and suicidal tendencies. He's in need of medication."
Zembles said the doctor found Boyles is "unable to assist in our defense" of his case and needs treatment for his depression.
The problem with Boyles staying in the county jail is "I don't think he'll receive his medication or be watched closely enough," Marshall said.
The defense, Zembles said, wasn't asking for an examination to determine whether Boyles was competent to stand trial.
"We have our examination from our psychiatrist," Zembles said.
The doctor, she said, determined Boyles, in order to assist in his defense, needs treatment for his depression.
"We're asking, based on the information we have from [our doctor]" for Boyles to be hospitalized to receive his medication and be treated for his depression, Zembles said.
When Swindle asked Zoellner for his thoughts, Zoellner told the judge: "You and I are singing from the same song book. …They had a private examination that said he was not competent. They raised this as an issue."
If there is reason for the court to question Boyles' competency, then the "safe way to go" is to order a competency evaluation at a state facility, Zoellner said. "There's no reason for him to be committed now," he said.
Swindle asked Ripley County Sheriff Ron Barnett if there had been any reports of trouble with Boyles during his incarceration.
"Not that I'm aware of," said Barnett, who also answered negatively when asked whether there were problems with Boyles getting his medication.
Marshall reiterated he and Zembles were asking for Boyles to be committed "due to his lack of competency to proceed."
"If you believe he needs to be committed after the second exam, we'll review it then," Swindle said.
Marshall then asked that if Boyles is sent to the Department of Mental Health for evaluation, and it is determined he needs hospitalization, that he should not be brought back here.
"It's common sense … to leave him there," Swindle said. The doctor's report, he said, will be sent to the state and defense once the evaluation is done.
Since Boyles can't make a decision in regard to his preliminary hearing until the evaluation is complete, Swindle ordered him to appear at 9 a.m. March 23 for an announcement in his case to check the status on his examination and the filing of its subsequent report.
Should the evaluating doctor decide Boyles needs to stay, Swindle told Marshall and Zembles they would need to file a separate motion in regard to that issue.
Flanked by his attorneys, Robert Wolfrum and Cynthia Dryden with the Capital Public Defender's Office in St. Louis, Mo., David Youngblood waived having a preliminary hearing in his case.
After going over David Youngblood's rights to a preliminary hearing, Swindle accepted his signed waiver and ordered him to appear at 9 a.m. March 7 before Presiding Circuit Judge Michael Pritchett for arraignment on the charges.
Like her father, Chantale Youngblood, who was accompanied by her attorney, Steven Lynxwiler with the Public Defender's Office in Poplar Bluff, Mo., also waived her preliminary hearing.
"Do you understand what's happening here today? Do you understand the proceedings," said Swindle, who told the teen she was entitled to a preliminary hearing.
Is waiving the hearing "what you want to do?" Swindle asked.
Chantale Youngblood confirmed it was.
Swindle accepted the teen's signed waiver and ordered her to appear at 9 a.m. Feb. 25 before Pritchett for arraignment on the charges.
Donna Anthony with the Public Defender's Office in West Plains, Mo., presented Swindle with a waiver signed by her client, Melissa Youngblood.
"Have you had an opportunity to talk to your attorney about the proceedings," Swindle asked.
When Melissa Youngblood confirmed she had, Swindle accepted her waiver and ordered her to appear at 9 a.m. Feb. 7 before Pritchett for arraignment.
Although they haven't been charged at this time, the Youngbloods and Boyles also are suspects in the deaths of David Youngblood's aunt and uncle, Gladys Irene Piatt, 80, and Loyd Eugene Piatt, 77. The Piatts were found dead inside their rural Doniphan home June 23.
While authorities initially thought the couple had died of smoke inhalation, they became suspicious when David Youngblood was among those arrested in connection with Atkinson and Chase's deaths.
The investigation into the Piatts' deaths was reopened and their bodies were exhumed, so autopsies could be performed to determine how they died. Both reportedly had been shot in the chest.