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Hickman murder suspect closer to standing trial

Hickman murder suspect closer to standing trial
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Tommy Lattus moved one step closer Wednesday to standing trial for the Jan. 23 shooting death of then Hickman, Ky., Mayor Charles Murphy.
Lattus returned to court in Hickman Wednesday afternoon for a competency hearing before Fulton County (Ky.) Circuit Court Judge Tim Langford. The hearing lasted about 40 minutes and involved a telephone conference call with Dr. Susan Vaught of Western State Hospital in Hopkinsville, Ky.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Langford and both attorneys involved in the case agreed to schedule a pre-trial conference for 10 a.m. Dec. 5. Mayfield, Ky., attorney Dennis Null is representing Lattus, while commonwealth attorney Mike Stacy is prosecuting the case.
Lattus, 30, appeared in court clad in bright orange jail clothing and sat next to Null throughout the hearing, several times acknowledging the judge’s questions and remarks and also responding to comments from Dr. Vaught. He appeared calm but nervous throughout the hearing.
His mother, Karen Lattus, was seated in the courtroom throughout the hearing. She also attended her son’s arraignment Tuesday afternoon.
Wednesday’s hearing began with Dr. Vaught reciting her credentials as director of psychological services at Western State Hospital. She has held that position for just over a year, but has been working at the hospital since 2008. Among her academic credentials, she said she earned a masters degree at Vanderbilt University. Both attorneys stipulated as to her status as an expert.
In her testimony, Dr. Vaught stated under oath that Lattus was admitted to the hospital on Aug. 28. She testified that when Lattus  was admitted, his condition was “markedly psychotic and disorganized” and she went on to say that he was “very, very ill” when he first came to Western State Hospital.
At one point during her testimony, Dr. Vaught revealed that Lattus expressed concern that others didn’t understand that he, too, is grieving the loss of someone who was very special in his life (Murphy).
Dr. Vaught testified that Lattus was initially prone to “outbursts” and “paranoia,” but his condition improved when his medication was altered. She stated under oath that while Lattus exhibits the “appropriate anxiety” for a person in his situation, she said he does understand the charges against him and is mentally competent to stand trial.
Lattus was actually returned to Fulton County Tuesday afternoon from Western State Hospital, where he was undergoing court-ordered psychiatric treatment. He is being held at the Fulton County Detention Center on a $1 million cash bond.
He was arraigned Tuesday after being re-indicted by a Fulton County Grand Jury last week. 
His arraignment lasted less than five minutes, as attorneys for both sides appear committed to resolving the murder case quickly.
Lattus is facing a murder charge and a burglary charge in connection with the early morning shooting death of Lattus, who was found murdered in his bedroom by Hickman police officer Phillip Burnett on Jan. 23. According to Burnett’s testimony at Lattus’ original arraignment, the 30-year-old Lattus walked into the Hickman Police Department about 1:20 a.m. on Jan. 23 and voluntarily confessed to killing Murphy.
Published in The Messenger 11.15.12

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