A Martinsville man charged with second-degree murder was found competent to stand trial at a review hearing Monday in Martinsville General District Court.
Devontae Massey, 23, is charged in the shooting death on Jan. 1 of Rasheem Oshea Hairston, 24, of Eden, N.C., a former resident of the Martinsville area.
Massey had been declared incompetent to stand trial in May, but on Monday Public Defender Sandra Haley indicated that a “post-restoration report” by Rebecca Loehrer (a licensed clinical psychologist) showed that Massey “responded very positively to restoration services, and he has been restored.”
The report was dated Aug. 6, special prosecutor A.J. Dudley said. Dudley, who is the commonwealth’s attorney for Franklin County, is handling this case because the Martinsville Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has a conflict of interest.
Judge Joan Ziglar ruled that Massey is competent to stand trial based on Loehrer’s report, and a preliminary hearing has been scheduled for 1 p.m. on Oct. 23.
At a mental competency hearing on May 31, Loehrer testified that she did a mental evaluation of Massey on March 6 and that she had concluded that he was mentally incompetent to stand trial for a number of reasons.
She cited his low IQ, learning disability, symptoms from trauma from having been shot, symptoms of depression and hallucinations. She indicated she felt Massey could not process information adequately to make good decisions relative to his defense.
Under Virginia law, a defendant may be declared mentally incompetent to stand trial if he “lacks substantial capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist his attorney in his own defense.”
At that hearing Dudley argued that Massey did not meet the criteria to be declared mentally incompetent. Dudley argued that low IQ in itself was not sufficient, and he indicated he felt part of Massey’s symptoms when he was evaluated in March may have been because of the pain he had experienced from having been shot.
Dudley then asked Judge Jimmy McGarry to order a second mental competency evaluation of Massey – this one at the request of the prosecution and looking at his current status. The evaluation in March had been at the request of the defense. McGarry denied Dudley’s request but ruled that Massey was incompetent to stand trial, which enabled him to receive outpatient mental health services and treatment at the Martinsville Jail in an effort to restore him to competency.
In addition to second-degree murder, Massey is charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, reckless handling of a firearm, shooting at an occupied dwelling and shooting a firearm in a public place, causing injury.
Massey was at a party at 313 Clift St., according to a criminal complaint filed by Martinsville Police Sgt. Richard Ratcliffe, when witnesses said he became agitated. Witnesses said they saw Massey — who “had an obvious problem with Hairston,” the complaint reported — with a gun.
The complaint said that at about 1:20 a.m. Jan. 1 the suspect is alleged to have fired his weapon from the street in front of the “occupied dwelling.”
Responding police reported finding Hairston dead at the scene.
Shortly afterward, police were called to a hospital for a man who had been shot. That man, Massey, was treated at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital for non-life-threatening gunshot wounds, police reported.
Massey was arrested that day.
Paul Collins is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him at 276-638-8801, ext. 236.