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Tony Villegas Deemed Incompetent; Murder Case Stalled

Two years after he was arrested for allegedly strangling attorney Melissa Britt Lewis and dumping her body in a canal, Tony Villegas has been deemed incompetent to stand trial.

Al Milian, one of two attorneys representing Tony, declined to explain why Tony's mental health has suddenly become an issue or when his condition might be expected to improve.

"Two experts have deemed him not competent to proceed at this time," Milian says. "That could change or not.

"I'm not a psychologist, so I basically rely on the experts," he added. "We're just gonna have to wait and see."

Tony Villegas, 46, has been transferred from the Broward County Jail to a mental health facility run by the Department of Children

and Families, Milian says. By law, if Tony's mental health does not improve in five years, the first-degree murder case against him must be dropped.

Milian has spoken publicly in the past about reexamining Melissa's murder and investigating other suspects. But now the entire process of preparing for trial has slowed. "Right now, we're sort of stopped in our tracks," he says.

Tony Villegas is the ex-husband of Debra Villegas, Melissa's best friend and the former chief operating officer at the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm. Before Tony was arrested in March 2008, Melissa's friends told the police that Tony may have killed Melissa in order to hurt his ex-wife. Debra and Melissa spent an enormous amount of time together, and Debra relied heavily on Melissa to help her through her divorce.

The current focus on Tony's sanity is not entirely surprising. Tony's diary from the months leading up to Melissa's death suggests that he was struggling to keep it together. His entries were disjointed and difficult to decipher, scribbled at random on a day planner. Some days, all he wrote was "BAD DAY" or "MISSING THEM," or "MISS."

He wrote that he missed his family and had been spying on Debra when she hung out at the Round Up Country Western Club in Davie.

"Hard to sleep. Missing my family," reads a December 12, 2008 entry. "Mad at her but loving her so that it hurts... (very lonely). She look like she in love. At Round Up with some guy for 3 hrs. outside making out. Tony you don't like flys [sic] on you meat. Forget her."

According to his children and his ex-wife, Tony had a long history of being physically and emotionally abusive. In a sworn statement to the Plantation police, Debra said Tony once duct-taped a toddler's mouth shut and threw his pregnant stepdaughter, Aimee, across the room.

Yet police investigative documents never suggested that Tony might be too disturbed to stand trial for premeditated murder.

In a sworn interview with police in 2008, Aimee Villegas characterized Tony as a methodical, violent person. "I think he's fully capable of doing what was done," Aimee said. "I think he's smart enough, because I don't feel like he's psycho in the manner where people will go on a rage and start screaming and yelling."

"I think he's psycho in the manner where he will sit and plan how to hurt someone in the extreme and plan out very carefully in his favor where, I know what I'm doing, I'm going to do this, she's going to suffer, and I'm going to get my revenge."

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab

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