ST. GEORGE — An attempted murder case from late 2012 may never see the resolution prosecutors hoped for due to the defendant, once again, being declared unable to proceed to trial due to his mental health status. A recent evaluation states the suspect, Craig Manwill Bennett, is unlikely to be restored to mental competency anytime soon.
Bennett, 35, is charged with shooting a man in a Harrisburg RV park Nov. 23, 2012 with a shotgun. Bennett told police officers at the scene that the man was a devil and a serial killer who was after his mother, so he shot him.
The latest mental evaluation, a 15-page report, was shared with Judge Eric Ludlow Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s a troubling report, counsel,” Ludlow said. “It’s clear to the court that Mr. Bennett is highly delusional … According to the report … Mr. Bennett will likely never become competent in the foreseeable future.”
Because of this, the court and attorneys involved are moving to have Bennett committed to a state mental health facility. The move will bring the criminal prosecution to a stand still as the question of commitment becomes a matter of civil law.
The state will file the paperwork to move the process along, Deputy Attorney Ryan Shaum said.
A local mental health evaluator from the Southwest Behavioral Health Center will also examine Bennett in order to determine if he needs to be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.
Criminal charges, such as the first-degree felony Bennett faces for attempted murder, will remain open for the time being, Shaum said, though it remains to be seen if they will ever be able to be pursued at this point.
“It’s far from resolved, because we haven’t been able to do much with this case,” Shaum said, adding that while the state was able to get to a preliminary hearing, not much else has been feasible.
“With him not being competent, there’s nothing we can do,” he said.
Bennett was not present in the courtroom. He had been left at the county jail due to being “uncooperative,” a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy told the court.
Since the 2012 incident, Bennett has been bounced between the Utah State Hospital in Utah County and the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.
He would be declared not competent by the court to proceed to trial and sent to the state mental health facility where he would eventually be declared competent by mental health experts and later returned to Washington County, only to be declared not competent yet again.
Since 2012, Bennett has been sent twice to the Utah State Hospital. He has been held at Purgatory since early 2016, defense attorney Edward Flint said. Since then, the state has sent mental health experts to the jail to review Bennett’s status versus returning him to the state hospital, he said.
An evaluation made earlier this year declared Bennett was once again competent. However, the judge and attorneys involved in the case were not so sure.
“It was obvious that neither the judge nor Mr. Shaum for the state or I believed Mr. Bennett was either competent or was going to stay that way long enough to get us through a trial in this case,” Flint said.
During a preliminary hearing last year, Detective Troy Hall, of the Hurricane City Police, testified that police found Bennett standing in front of a trailer with an object in his hand that was later confirmed to be a shotgun. Bennett had his back to the officer at the time. Hall had drawn his weapon and told Bennett to drop the gun and raise his hands, which he did.
Bennett was placed in handcuffs around this time and rambled non-stop, saying the man in the trailer – the shooting victim – was a bad man and a devil and that he had threatened to go after Bennett’s mother, Hall testified.
“He’s a serial killer and I shot him,” Bennett said, as recounted by Hall.
The victim sustained significant wounds to the top of his head and hand while making an attempt to shove the shotgun out of his face before Bennett pulled the trigger. He was flown by Intermountain Life Flight to a hospital in Las Vegas in critical condition.
The man survived the attack, yet sustained “life-altering injuries” from the incident, Shaum said.
The attorneys are scheduled to meet May 30 to move the process of Bennett’s pending commitment forward.
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