A Champaign County 14-year-old who claimed in a 9-1-1 call that an alternate personality inside of him took over and killed his stepmother has been found competent to stand trial.
Now a judge will decide if Donovan Nicholas should remain in the juvenile system or have his case transferred to adult court.
“We’re hopeful that the court is going to find that Donovan can be rehabilitated,” defense attorney Darrell Heckman said.
Champaign County Juvenile Court Judge Lori Reisinger found Donovan Nicholas competent during a hearing Thursday morning. He’s been charged with murder and aggravated murder in connection with the killing of 40-year-old Heidi Fay Taylor, according to court documents.
Heckman had requested the competency evaluation.
Prosecutors have to sought to try Nicholas as an adult. The judge ordered Thursday a psychological evaluation of Nicholas and will schedule a hearing after that’s completed to decide if he should face charges as an adult or not.
Champaign County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi has said in a statement that he has sought to move the case to adult court because of the seriousness of the allegations and “the deliberate and premeditated nature of the offenses alleged and the available sanctions and penalties available in the juvenile system.”
But Heckman believes the teen could be rehabilitated with mental health counseling.
He hopes the judge will find, “that his problems are mental illness problems and that they can be addressed,” Heckman said.
“He’s a very young child but it’s a very serious allegation,” he said. “I understand the conflicts that exist.”
Nicholas has been accused of stabbing and shooting Taylor, court records say. It’s believed the teen would have attempted to flee the scene if not for a leg injury, Talebi has said.
Nicholas allegedly stabbed himself in the leg during the struggle with Taylor, who was his dad’s girlfriend and was described in a 9-1-1 call as the teen’s stepmother.
In that emergency call, Nicholas blames the killing on an alternate personality named Jeff.
“This is going to be really hard to explain, but I kind of have another person inside me,” Nicholas can be heard saying in the call. “… I swear it wasn’t me. It was Jeff. Jeff is inside me.”
A recent Ohio Supreme Court decision that said it’s constitutional to automatically send juveniles who are accused of serious crimes to adult court when there’s probable cause that they committed the alleged crimes and a prosecutor requests it doesn’t apply to Nicholas’s case because of his age, Heckman said.
“Because Donovan is 14, his was always a discretionary bind over,” he said.
The judge also ruled on Thursday that there’s enough evidence against Donovan to continue with the case.
A psychologist will evaluate Nicholas and send his findings to the judge. Once she receives them, Reisinger said in court she would look them over and then schedule a hearing to decide if the case should be moved to adult court or remain in juvenile court.