Published January 14, 2015
Prosecutors and defense attorneys told a judge Friday that an autistic teenager is not competent to stand trial in the fatal beating of his mother, a Kent State University professor.
The attorneys said they accepted a mental health evaluation of Sky Walker, 18, that concluded he is unable to help in his defense.
Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow said he probably would rule next week on whether Walker, who did not attend Friday's hearing, will stand trial and, if not, whether to send him to a treatment facility. The judge said he expects to keep the evaluation under court seal and not release it publicly.
Autism is a developmental disability that limits social interaction and communication skills, usually starting before age 3.
The defense had argued that Walker cannot carry on a conversation and would be unable to assist in his defense. He was disruptive at his first court appearance and was kept in a restraint chair and had a mask to keep him from spitting at deputies.
The lone witness at Friday's hearing, sheriff's Lt. Gregory Johnson, gave the most detailed accounting yet of the attack on Gertrude Steuernagel, 60, who was found beaten in her home in January and died a week later.
Johnson testified that deputies, sent to check on Steuernagel because her colleagues were concerned that she didn't come to work or call, found her on the floor of her kitchen with massive injuries to her face.
There was no sign of a break-in or robbery, he said. A blood trail led through the house to the basement, where deputies found Walker, his bare feet splattered in blood, Johnson said.
The Kent State caller told authorities that Steuernagel had mentioned increased aggression from her son.
Johnson also said Steuernagel had called the boy's school the night before to say Walker would be absent.
"He was having a 'meltdown' and would not be coming to school," was how Johnson characterized Steuernagel's call to the school.
Steuernagel, with broken face bones and ribs, was unable to tell deputies what happened, according to Johnson.
Walker gave conflicting accounts, never able to speak in a complete sentence, Johnson said.
He at one point said he had "kicked momma" and "hurt momma" but another time denied he had injured her, Johnson said. In the house, he kicked a deputy in the face and had to be restrained with handcuffs and pepper spray, Johnson said.