A Busby man accused of murder in the beating and burning death of a Crow Agency woman last year is mentally competent to proceed to trial, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters of Billings found that Dimarzio Swade Sanchez, 19, is competent to stand trial after hearing testimony from a forensic psychologist Tuesday afternoon.
Sanchez is among three people charged in the death of Roylynn Rides Horse, 28, who died on June 28, 2016, in a Salt Lake City hospital after being beaten unconscious, set on fire with gasoline and left in a field on the Crow Reservation on April 17, 2016.
Sanchez has pleaded not guilty to first degree murder.
Watters ordered a mental competency exam after finding there was “reasonable cause” to believe Sanchez may be suffering from a mental disease that could make him incompetent to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his defense.
Sanchez underwent a competency exam at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ Metropolitan Center in Los Angeles. He was at the center from late March to about mid June.
Tiffany Smith, a BOP clinical psychologist who conducted the exam, testified that in her opinion, Sanchez was mentally competent.
Smith also said that while Sanchez had substance use and adjustment disorders, they did not impair his ability to understand the court process. Sanchez “demonstrated a level of competency,” she said.
Sanchez, Smith said, had substance use issues that included meth, cocaine, opiates, cannabis, alcohol and hallucinogens. The adjustment disorders involved anxiety and depression, she said.
The examination also indicated that Sanchez put forth a “poor effort and lack of investment” in some of the testing in an attempt to appear worse than he was, Smith said.
The examination involved various psychological tests, a review of his history and the case and interviews with him and others, Smith said. She met with Sanchez five or six times for a total of about 12 hours, she said.
Watters said she would set a trial date for Sanchez. Earlier, the judge vacated a May 8 trial date until further notice.
Sanchez faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first degree murder.
Co-defendant Angelica Jo Whiteman, of Billings, also is charged with first degree murder and is set for trial on Sept. 25.
A third defendant, Frank James Sanchez, who is Dimarzio Sanchez’s brother, pleaded guilty in March to failing to report a felony and to being an accessory after the fact. A plea deal calls for a first degree murder charge to be dismissed at sentencing. He is to be sentenced Oct. 20.