Judge rules man incompetent, but additional medical tests expected
GONZALES — A state district judge ruled Monday that a suspected undocumented worker accused of fatally shooting his estranged wife and then himself in the head in April in a Gonzales-area trailer park is incompetent to stand trial in her slaying.
Judge Ralph Tureau ordered Gerardo Lua, 39, 13250 Roddy Road, Lot 11, Gonzales, to the Villa Feliciana Medical Complex in Jackson, which serves patients with acute care needs, prosecutors said.
Tureau followed the unanimous recommendation of a three-physician sanity commission, which reported that Lua suffers from serious physical and cognitive problems, though two doctors on the panel raised the prospect that Lua was overstating his mental deficits.
“That is, he may remember more than he is providing in his answers to our questions,” Drs. D. Clay Kelly Jr. and Charles P. Vosburg, of Tulane University Medical School, wrote in a June 1 report to Tureau.
The doctors said Lua, who repeatedly claimed he was not guilty, did not remember why he was in the hospital, did not remember shooting himself in the head and was not clear whether his wife, Alejandra Orozco, 36, was dead, saying he did not “know where she was.”
Lua is at least partially paralyzed from the waist down and in his left arm, is blind, cannot feed himself and is incontinent, according to physicians’ reports.
The third doctor on the panel, Dr. Harminder Mallik, also of Tulane University Medical School, wrote that Lua had a hard time understanding questions, was easily confused by them and could not remember details of his life or what happened to him or his wife.
“Given his clinical condition, he would not be able to refrain from irrational or unmanageable behavior at trial and would (not) be able to tolerate the stress of trial,” Mallik wrote.
Kelly and Vosburg offered similar assessments of Lua’s physical and mental state and reached the same ultimate recommendation after interviewing Lua on May 27, 11 days after Mallik did.
But Kelly and Vosburg suggested that time at the facility in Jackson could give Lua a chance to recover and allow for more testing.
“This testing would also determine whether Mr. Lua is indeed providing full effort in answering the questions of examiners,” the doctors wrote.
Lua’s wife, Orozco, had been seeking a divorce and left Lua weeks earlier to be with her boyfriend in Illinois but returned April 2, Ascension Parish sheriff’s deputies have said.
Lua’s two sons told sheriff’s detectives that Lua and Orozco had a history of domestic violence and that Lua got a gun after Orozco asked for the divorce, according to court papers filed by prosecutors in May.
Orozco was found dead, shot twice in the head, in their Gonzales-area mobile home at Cobb’s Trailer Park off Roddy Road early on April 3. Lua left a suicide note on the back of a photograph of his 11-year-old daughter in Mexico, the court papers show. When translated, the note says, “I love you, beautiful. I am going to watch over you from Heaven. Your Papa.”
Lua, who was indicted May 9 on a count of second-degree murder, has been at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge since the shooting. Assistant District Attorney Robin O’Bannon said Monday that Tureau’s order was being sent to the hospital to transfer Lua to the complex in Jackson.
District Attorney Ricky Babin said Lua will receive treatment at the facility if and until he is able to stand trial.
Babin has aired his displeasure with the prospect of Ascension Parish or state taxpayers footing the bill for an accused killer who is not a U.S. citizen and stated his desire to move quickly to determine Lua’s competency. Prosecutors filed papers for an expedited sanity commission the same day Lua was indicted.
Whether Lua ends up remaining in state care or eventually stands trial, the only way he is likely to be returned to his home country of Mexico is if he is found not guilty in the slaying.
Though it was not immediately clear if an immigration detainer has been filed against Lua since his indictment, Bryan Cox, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the detainer would apply only at the conclusion of Lua’s state custody. Detainers ask local law enforcement to tell federal immigration officials when someone is about to be released from state custody.
If Lua can stand trial in Ascension Parish and is convicted of second-degree murder, his state prison sentence would be mandatory life.