The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

March 15, 2014

Prosecutor wants judge to order Ashtabula murder suspect to take medication

JEFFERSON — In a case that has spent months in legal limbo, a prosecutor asked a judge to force a murder suspect to take psychotropic medications to make him competent enough to stand trial.

Rashad Riddle, 25, who is charged with aggravated murder in the Easter Sunday shooting death of his father, was deemed incompetent in December. He was sent to Heartland Behavioral Healthcare Center in Massillon for treatment.

Doctors at the psychiatric hospital prescribed psychotropic medication to restore Riddle’s competency, but he refuses to take it, Ashtabula County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Harold Specht said.

During an assessment of medication hearing Friday, Specht asked Ashtabula County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Vettel to order Riddle to take his medication.

“The judge took the argument under consideration,” Specht said.

Riddle, who police believe shot and killed his father last Easter outside the Hiawatha Church of God in Ashtabula, was interviewed and tested by two psychiatrists while in jail on a $1 million bond, according to Specht and court records.

Both doctors said Riddle is incompetent to stand trial, but the drugs will make him competent, Specht said.

If Vettel goes forward with a court order, Riddle will be offered the drug in a pill form, and if he refuses to swallow it, the medical staff will inject him, Specht said.

While Riddle is incompetent, he cannot be put to trial on any charges. He has been at Heartland since late December and expected to stay there until he is returned to competency, then he can be tried. This is not the same as insanity. If a person is insane at the time they committed an offense, then they are found not guilty by reason of insanity. Competency means that they do not understand what is going on, generally, and that they cannot help their attorney with their defense.

Riddle’s father, Richard Riddle, 53, died March 31, Easter Sunday, of a single gunshot wound, Ashtabula County Coroner Pamela Lancaster said.

Witnesses said Rashad Riddle shot his father in the head with a .38 special, killing him, as he exited the church. No one else was injured.

According to witnesses, Riddle killed his father, walked into the church, went to the pulpit, waving a handgun and yelling about Allah and that the killing was “the will of Allah. This is the will of God.”

Church parishioners later said they thought they were all going to die that day.

During a preliminary hearing in Municipal Court, Ashtabula City Patrolman Jay Janek said when he arrived on the scene, Riddle was inside the church at the podium.

“He had a gun in the air,” Janek said. “He had several knives on him ... we later discovered the Koran at the podium.”

Riddle surrendered to police without incident.

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