What we learned about mental capacity of Roswell teens' murder suspect

The court is now examining his mental state

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. -- The man charged with murder in the deaths of two Roswell teenagers appeared in court Wednesday morning for a status hearing.

Jeffrey Hazelwood, 20, is charged with two counts of murder, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual battery, identity fraud, theft and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in connection with the deaths of 17-year-olds Natalie Henderson and Carter Davis on August 1, 2016.

Sporting close-cropped hair -- a stark contrast to the long, unruly hair seen in previous court appearances -- Hazelwood spoke only once in the two-hour hearing Wednesday, telling the judge that he understood what was going on.

In March, a clinical psychologist conducted a mental evaluation of Hazelwood to determine if he is capable of proceeding with the case and testified to his findings. Christian Hildreth, a forensic director for Central State Hospital, said when Hazelwood arrived at the hospital on Feb. 14, 2017, he was confused and had trouble controlling the voices only he could hear.

Hildreth testified that Hazelwood "was unable to complete sentences. He was unable to have a discussion with me and with other practitioners other than recording hearing voices.”

Photos | Jeffrey Hazelwood has new look at mental competency hearing

He was placed on different medication than he was taking at Fulton County Jail and in Hildreth's March 13 evaluation, he said Hazelwood made progress and was able to have conversations and exhibit an understanding of his case and how court proceedings play out.

“He understood the role of his attorneys to defend him, to help him and the district attorney is to prosecute him and the judge’s role is to be impartial, to listen to the evidence and pass the sentence,” Hildreth said.

It was Hildreth's professional opinion that Hazelwood is competent enough to proceed with the case, despite his mental illnesses.

Hildreth did express that he thinks Hazelwood would be affected by a trial lasting more than a week because of his history of anxiety. During Wednesday's hearing, Hazelwood was seen rocking back and forth and shaking his leg from time to time. Hildreth said these are a few outward manifestations of his anxiety.

Hildreth said Hazelwood's medical team has not been able to pinpoint a mental health diagnosis for Hazelwood. 

"We have struggled with putting a label on his mental illness,” he said. Although Hazelwood has a previous diagnosis of Asperger's disorder, Hildreth said “he never quite fit into the full spectrum of an autistic diagnosis.”

He would confirm that Hazelwood suffers from psychosis, but that's not a mental illness. Hear Hildreth's description of Hazelwood's range of symptoms.

 

Dr. Selig Cynman, Hazelwood's former doctor, testified that he treated the suspect as a teen for three years. They met for approximately 82 sessions. During that time, Cynman said Hazelwood's symptoms included a fear of being spied on, a belief that there are cameras in his room, hearing voices, depressed mood, difficulty sustaining attention and difficulty sleeping. 

The hearing ended without a ruling from the judge. Fulton County Judge Shawn LaGrua will rule on Hazelwood's mental capacity to proceed in this case a later date.

CASE BACKGROUND

In a previous hearing, Roswell Police Detective Jennifer Bennett testified that Hazelwood confessed to the killings but not to why he did it.

He told authorities he saw Henderson and Davis go behind the Publix store and followed them. He climbed up to the roof of the grocery store and continued watching before confronting the two teenagers, who were in the backseat of Henderson's SUV.

Photos | Jeffrey Hazelwood

Roswell teen murders | Documents reveal details of suspect's childhood

Hazelwood made his way down to the SUV, opened the backseat passenger door and ordered the two to exit the vehicle. At this time, Hazelwood told the detective he felt threatened by Davis, pistol-whipped him and shot him in the head.

Photos | Scene of the crime

He then ordered Henderson out of the car and told her to strip naked. He then sexually assaulted her before shooting her in the head.

The detective testified that Hazelwood then took Henderson's debit card from her wallet as well as jumper cables from Davis' vehicle.

RELATED | New charges filed against accused Roswell murderer
AND | Attorney: Roswell teens murder suspect could face death penalty

© 2017 WXIA-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment