A 23-year-old man charged in the cold-blooded killing of his mother and a family friend was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial Friday and was sent immediately to a Georgia mental facility.
Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Allison Burleson made the ruling at the request of District Attorney Stephen Bradley during a brief hearing at the Morgan County Courthouse.
Judge Burleson agreed, she said, with the diagnosis of a doctor who had interviewed Justin Sandiver Slaughter and determined that Slaughter is “incompetent to stand trial.”
Slaughter was arrested on Dec. 3, 2017 after he allegedly killed his mother, Paula Slaughter, 54, and family friend Collin Smith, 53, at the family’s residence on Slaughter-Veasley Road. According to police reports at the time of the arrest, Justin Slaughter was arrested in a wooded area behind the residence approximately two hours after Paula Slaughter and Smith were both shot and killed by a 12 gauge shotgun.
At Friday’s hearing, District Attorney Bradley alleged Smith had been shot twice by Slaughter around 3 p.m. while he was working on the family’s residence. The body of Paula Slaughter was found on the front steps of the property.
Slaughter is indicted on two counts felony murder, two counts murder and two counts aggravated assault. Bradley said, and the court agreed, that Slaughter needed professional psychiatric help.
Bradley said the family had reached out to various agencies prior to the murders to express concern for Slaughter’s behavior. “His erratic behavior had been preceded by what the family reports as an increasing signs of erratic psychotic behavior, their words, obviously. He was not diagnosed or under the care of a physician or psychiatrist in the days and months leading up to these deaths. However, the family had in fact, contacted law enforcement and been directed to the probate court and ultimately they report some level of fixation by the defendant on his mother particularly in which he got increasingly irritated at her that led to him shooting Mrs. Paula Slaughter and Collin Smith…”
Bradley said, however, that if Justin Slaughter were to undergo successful treatment for mental illness, the state would reconsider prosecution. “With structured environment and the right medications there is a likely hood that he become competent.”
Bradley said the doctor who evaluated Justin Slaughter “describes some disorientation, inability to locate time, some discussion of, basically, voices and motivations which are not tied to external reality. She describes the disorganization of thought and ultimately is not competent to stand trail.”
The ruling comes after Justin Slaughter’s court-appointed attorney Darrell Mitchell filed a special plea of incompetency to stand trial.
“Judge we all know these cases are difficult. They are challenging in lots of different ways,” Bradley said.
Justin Slaughter was ushered into the courtroom wearing a orange and white pair of prison coveralls and his hands and feet where shackled. He made no expression during the hearing and stared straight ahead.