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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Legal proceedings in the case against a Cedar Rapids teenager accused of stabbing his parents to death in their home in October have been suspending so state psychiatric doctors can determine if he’s suffering from a mental disorder.
District Court Judge Ian Thornhill — new to the case after Judge Mary Chicchelly was chosen for the Iowa Court of Appeals — this week ordered a “competency evaluation” for Ethan Alexander Orton, who’s just four months from his 18th birthday.
Orton will be moved from his Linn County detention to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville “to determine whether he is suffering a mental disorder which prevents him from appreciating the charge, understanding the proceedings, or assisting effectively in his defense,” according to court documents filed Monday.
Since all court proceedings will be stayed pending resolution of the competency issue, Thornhill ordered a competency hearing should happen within 14 days of the evaluation’s start — unless results aren’t yet available. In that case, a hearing should happen within five days of the evaluation’s end. At the latest, the court will hold a progress hearing Jan. 31.
Two weeks ago, the court set Orton’s jury trial for Feb. 8, with a status conference at the end of this week. But Thornhill confirmed Orton’s defense team has submitted sufficient information to support their belief the teen is suffering from a mental illness.
“It is the belief of the undersigned counsel that Mr. Orton suffers from a severe mental health disorder that may be preventing him from fully appreciating his present circumstances,” defense attorneys wrote in their request.
“The undersigned believes that the defendant may not be capable of understanding the legal concepts necessary to make an informed and voluntary decision regarding his rights in this matter or providing competent assistance to the defense of his case,” according to his attorneys, who said their beliefs are based on “in-person communication with Mr. Orton and information received by counsel.”
Attorneys also want Orton “evaluated to determine whether he was mentally impaired or suffering from diminished capacity at the time of the alleged defense.”
Orton has been charged as an adult with two counts of first-degree murder in the fatal stabbings of his parents, Misty Scott Slade, 41, and Casey Orton, 42, at their 361 Carnaby Drive NE home early Oct. 14. Conviction for first-degree murder in Iowa is punishable by life in prison without parole.
Orton has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the 2 a.m. 911 call about suspicious noises at his home. When Cedar Rapids police arrived, they reporting finding Orton soaked in blood outside the house.
He told investigators he stabbed both his parents and then turned to an ax when his mother was still alive, according to a criminal complaint. He explained killing him “to take charge of his life,” according to police.
Slade and Casey Orton both worked for McGrath Auto in Cedar Rapids. The family moved here from the Salt Lake City area of Utah more than four years ago.
Ethan Orton’s bail was set at $2 million cash for both counts.
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