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Doctors Disagree on Tony Villegas' Competency; Ruling Postponed

Villegas has been in jail for more than two years.
Tony Villegas' mental health is a moving target, according to his attorney, and the fluctuating opinions of psychologists have stalled his trial for the killing of Melissa Britt Lewis indefinitely.

In March 2008, Villegas was arrested for allegedly strangling Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler attorney Lewis and dumping her body in a canal. But this April, after two years behind bars, he was deemed incompetent to stand trial. Doctors said he could not understand the first-degree murder charge against him.

Then, after receiving medication and intensive treatment at a state-run hospital, one doctor decided he was competent again, says Villegas' attorney, Al Milian.

Now, after being transferred back to Broward County Jail, Villegas' condition has apparently deteriorated, because two court-appointed psychologists have written reports saying he's incompetent.

The doctors' reports are not public record, and Milian declined to discuss Villegas' mental condition in any detail. Instead, Judge William Haury Jr. today scheduled a November 2 hearing so that all three doctors can testify.

But even that hearing may not resolve the issue. If Villegas, 47, is found incompetent again, the state will have nearly five years to try to improve his condition. "They are recommending intensive treatment in order to regain competency," Milian says.

Court proceedings so far have offered little insight into Villegas' mental state. In police interviews in 2008, his children and ex-wife described him as an abusive, violent man who once threw his pregnant stepdaughter across the room and duct-taped a toddler's mouth shut. According to his son, Caleb, Villegas blamed Lewis for his divorce from his wife, Debra.

"He's like, 'The reason that we probably got a divorce [was] so they can spend more time [together],' " then-14-year-old Caleb told Plantation police. "'Cause she had gotten a divorce; Melissa got a divorce from her husband the same time as my mom and dad got a divorce. So he [Tony] thought it was planned for a while, like they were planning to get a divorce at the same time."

In a makeshift diary, written in the months leading up to Lewis' murder and seized by police, Tony wrote disjointed entries about missing his family and watching Debra kiss another man.

But his mental state two years ago has no bearing on his health now, Milian points out. Villegas must remain coherent enough to assist his attorneys throughout a trial.

Today in a Broward County courtroom, Haury greeted Villegas warmly. "Mr. Villegas, good morning. How are you today?" the judge asked.

Handcuffed and sitting quietly among his fellow inmates, Villegas did not reply.

Meanwhile, Debra Villegas was sentenced in federal court this morning for her role in aiding Scott Rothstein's massive Ponzi scheme. Stay tuned for Bob Norman's update on that story.

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab

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