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Experts say Delling may be ready for trial

Wed., Jan. 28, 2009, 10:59 a.m.

BOISE — The mental health of a Boise man charged in a pair of 2007 shooting deaths in the state has improved enough in the last eight months for him to stand trial, two mental health experts testified Tuesday.

John Delling, 23, is charged with first-degree murder in the April, 2, 2007, killing of Bradley Morse in Boise. He also faces the same charge in Latah County in the shooting of University of Idaho student David Boss in Moscow on March 31, 2007.

Investigators have also linked Delling to a shooting that wounded a former Boise man living in Tucson, Ariz., on March 20, 2007, but Delling has yet to be charged in that case.

Since his arrest, Delling has twice been determined unfit to stand trial. But two psychologists who have been observing him for a year say Delling has improved in the last eight months, in part due to medication to treat paranoid schizophrenia, the Idaho Statesman reported.

He is “not overwhelmed by his delusions,” psychologist Chad Sombke said during a hearing Tuesday in 4th District Court. “He almost looks like a totally different individual.”

Delling did not speak during the hearing, but several times conferred with his defense lawyers.

Delling was arrested in Sparks, Nev., a day after Morse was killed.

The hearing also featured testimony from deputies at the Ada County Jail, where Delling is being held. Several deputies testified that Delling seems more active and lucid than before, and that he likes to talk about football and books he’s reading.

Sombke, Delling’s court-appointed psychologist, and Michael Estess, a psychologist with the Ada County Jail, testified that their conclusions on Delling’s health now are significantly different than 12 months ago.

Sombke said he was shocked by a November mental health evaluation because an earlier one showed Delling’s thinking continued to be shaped by delusional beliefs, including that he was Jesus and that people were trying to steal his powers or aura.

But by November, Sombke said Delling was exhibiting linear thinking and clearly understood the charges against him and how a jury trial works.

Although he still exhibits psychotic behavior, Estess says Delling’s delusional intensity has been reduced to the point where he can understand the legal proceedings against him.

A trial has been scheduled for July, but the timing hinges on whether 4th District Judge Deborah Bail declares Delling mentally competent to proceed.

The judge could decide how to proceed when the hearing resumes Friday.

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