Murder Suspect Remains Incompetent for Trial

Murder Suspect Remains Incompetent for Trial

Franconia man is returned to Central State Hospital.

It's been nearly three years since a 28-year-old Chantilly man was fatally stabbed in his bed while he slept. Yet due to mental problems, the person who police believe killed him — his own brother — has not yet stood trial for the deed.

The suspect, Ahmed Deria of Franconia, appeared last Friday afternoon in Fairfax County Circuit Court for a review of his case. However, the result was the same as in his previous court appearances.

Deria, now 33, was ordered returned to a state mental hospital for further treatment and evaluation until such time as doctors believe he's competent and capable of standing trial for murder.

The crime occurred Dec. 20, 2001 — five days before Christmas. The victim, Saeed Deria, was asleep in his apartment in the then-new community of Rockland Village, off Route 50 west. He was brutally attacked around 5 a.m. and died six hours later, around 11 a.m., at Inova Fairfax Hospital. Cause of death was a single stab wound to his upper body.

Saeed Deria's brother Ahmed lived at 6004 Burdon Court in the Kingstowne section of Franconia and was visiting Saeed Deria at the time. Fairfax County police initially charged Ahmed Deria with malicious wounding. But after Saeed Deria died, the grand jury indicted Ahmed Deria, a month later, for murder. No motive has as yet been revealed for the slaying.

However, the case then took a tricky turn when the suspect's unknown mental state brought the legal process to a halt. After being placed in the Adult Detention Center, Ahmed Deria displayed particularly bizarre behavior.

He had visual and auditory hallucinations, and he refused to take medication or wear clothes. His actions so alarmed the authorities that he was given a psychiatric examination and was found incompetent.

CONCERNED THAT Ahmed Deria might endanger himself and/or others at the jail, the county had him transferred, Feb. 13, 2002, to Central State Hospital. Dr. Eugene Gourley, a clinical psychologist, examined him there. Three months later, at Ahmed Deria's May 24, 2002, competency hearing in Circuit Court, Gourley testified that no one knew, yet, if Ahmed Deria was mentally retarded or simply lacked the education to understand what was happening to him.

Gourley said Deria had difficulty reasoning and comprehending the court process — especially the concepts of a jury trial and the differences among the various pleas he could enter.

"I don't think he'd be able to understand the [legal] process to help his attorney," said Gourley. "He seemed to understand what he was charged with but didn't understand the seriousness of it or of the consequences."

The doctor said Deria's psychiatric and medical history appeared to be consistent with schizophrenia. He also noted that a childhood head trauma caused Ahmed Deria problems with thinking and memory.

"He couldn't complete school in Somalia and was never able to function as an adult, so we have some concerns about his cognitive ability, as well," said Gourley. He added that Ahmed Deria had learned some English — his native language is Somalian — but needed things constantly repeated to him.

Gourley also revealed that Ahmed Deria had stabbed the same brother, a few years before, in California, but the doctor didn't know if he was punished for it legally. He said Ahmed Deria told him the authorities "let him go." He further noted that Ahmed Deria needs continued treatment and medication to keep from becoming violent and aggressive.

Judge Jonathan Thacher then ordered Ahmed Deria sent to Central State Hospital for psychiatric treatment and assessment. He returned to court, Nov. 8, 2002, and, after being updated on his condition, the judge concluded that Ahmed Deria still wasn't ready to stand trial. Thacher sent him back to the hospital for further evaluation.

Then in June 2003, Gourley declared him competent to stand trial, and a trial was set for Jan. 12, 2004. But on Jan. 7, in Circuit Court — five days before proceedings were to begin — history repeated itself. Ahmed Deria's attorney, public defender Brad Buster, had difficulty communicating with his client, and Judge Stanley Klein returned the defendant to the hospital.

Ahmed Deria returned to court again on Friday, Oct. 1, for another review before Klein, Buster and Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr., who is prosecuting the case. Ahmed Deria wore casual pants and a gray sweat shirt, and his sister Mimco Deria translated the proceedings to him in Somalian.

But she didn't have to translate much, because the judge and attorneys already understood beforehand that Ahmed Deria was not ready to stand trial.

Addressing Ahmed Deria directly, Klein told him, "I received a report from Central State Hospital that said you are not yet restored to competency to stand trial in this case. [So] you will be returned to Central State until restored to competency or until the next review date under Virginia law, in six months."