Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Man charged with Ogden Dunes arson murder to make insanity defense

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By KEVIN NEVERS

The attorney for the Michigan City man charged with the arson murder of his mother--who perished in a blaze in her Ogden Dunes home in April 2015--intends to argue that his client was insane at the time of the fire.

Frederick D. Fegely, 69, appeared before Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa on Monday, at which time his attorney, Bob Harper, formally filed a notice of insanity defense.

“The defendant, in addition to his not guilty plea, wishes to have a not guilty by reason of insanity also filed,” Harper stated in his filing.

Alexa duly granted Harper’s request to appoint “qualified professionals to assess the defendant’s sanity at the time of the alleged crime,” by naming three, two of whom previously determined--on Oct. 21, 2016--that Fegely was incompetent to stand trial.

Following that determination last year, Fegely was committed to the Logansport State Hospital for treatment, where he remained until March 27, when he was found competent and returned to Porter County.

As Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Cheryl Polarek told the Chesterton Tribune after deadline on Monday, the competency finding means that Fegely understands the charges against him and will be able to assist in his own defense. That finding is altogether separate, however, from the question of whether he was legally insane at the time of the fire.

Under Indiana Code 35-41-3-6, a “person is not responsible for having engaged in prohibited conduct if, as a result of mental disease or defect, he was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of the conduct at the time of the offense.”

IC defines mental disease or defect as a “severely abnormal mental condition that grossly and demonstrably impairs a person’s perception, but the term does not include an abnormality manifested only by repeated unlawful or antisocial conduct.”

In cases in which an insanity defense is argued, juries have four options, under IC 35-36-2-3: they may find the defendant guilty; not guilty; not responsible by reason of insanity at the time of the crime; or guilty but mentally ill at the time of the crime.

Should Fegely be found not responsible by reason of insanity, he would be committed to a state hospital for treatment until such time as he’s deemed no longer insane, and then released, Polarek said.

Under IC 35-36-2-5, defendants found guilty but mentally ill are sentenced in the same manner as those simply found guilty, that is, to the Department of Correction, where they “shall be further evaluated and then treated in such a manner as is psychiatrically indicated.”

Also on Monday, Alexa scheduled Fegely’s trial to begin on Sept. 18, with pre-trial hearings on June 30 and Aug. 18.

On the morning of April 16, 2015, Wanda Maine Wunder, 94, was found deceased by firefighters on the floor of her bedroom at 24 Diana Road in Ogden Dunes. An autopsy later determined that Wunder died of smoke and soot inhalation but also suffered thermal injuries.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed by the ODPD, investigators found traces of an accelerant--a “medium petroleum distillate,” a class of ignitable liquids which includes charcoal starter, lamp oil, and paint thinner--on the pajamas which Fegely was wearing at the time of the fire. The presence of an accelerant was also found both inside and outside the window of the house’s basement, where Fegely was staying at the time.

In an interview, Fegely advised that he’d moved in with his mother to assist her. “He stated that she was very particular about things and did not like his involvement with various religious teachings, in which he was very interested,” the affidavit stated. “He also acknowledged he was no longer receiving anything under his mother’s will but believed his daughter would share her portion with him.”

 

 

Posted 5/3/2017

 
 
 
 

 

 

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