Tony Villegas arrived in Broward County Court this morning looking weary after more than two years in jail, his thin face hidden by a scruffy brown beard. He sat quietly, cuffed hands in his lap, wearing a black-and-white striped shirt that set him apart from the drab blue uniforms of the other prisoners.
When his lawyer, Al Milian arrived, Villegas brightened and greeted him. The man accused of murdering Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler attorney Melissa Britt Lewis appeared alert and paid close attention to the conversations unfolding around him.
Yet Judge William Haury, Jr. did not rule on whether Villegas, 46, is mentally competent to stand trial. The judge postponed a decision today
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because Milian said he was still awaiting the results of a court-appointed psychologist's evaluation.
Prosecutors allege that Villegas strangled Lewis in March 2008 and dumped her body in a canal. He pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. But this April, he was deemed incompetent and sent to a mental health facility, so the trial was put on hold. He's since been transferred back to the Broward County Jail -- generally a sign of improved health.
Interestingly, his new hearing is scheduled for October 8, the same morning that his ex-wife, Debra, is slated to be sentenced in federal court for her role in assisting Scott Rothstein's Ponzi scheme. While law enforcement officials have never connected the two criminal cases, some conspiracy theorists believe Lewis was murdered because she discovered the Ponzi scheme.
No doubt, hordes of TV cameras will be racing back and forth between the two courthouses that Friday, trying to not to miss a minute of drama. The hearing also happens to be the day after Tony Villegas' 47th birthday.