Sunday, December 4, 2011
A 20-year-old man accused of killing a Pearland teen a year ago has been ruled incompetent to stand trial and was transferred from jail to a state mental hospital this month.
Hermilo Moralez was charged with murder last year in the beating death of his missing classmate. The dumped, partially burned remains of 18-year-old Josh Wilkerson were discovered in a Fort Bend County field with bound hands and feet.
After an evaluator determined that Moralez was not competent to stand trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that he should be treated for a mental health condition.
"He has been sent to a state hospital for competency restoration," Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne said. "At the present time, he is not competent to stand trial. He does not have a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against him."
Yenne described the transfer as a minor hurdle and said she anticipates bringing the case to trial.
"Our goal is to get him to a jury as soon as possible. The first step is that he be restored to competency so that he can be tried for murder," she said.
A judge's ruling in October cleared the way for Moralez, to be transferred this month from the Brazoria County Jail to a state mental institution.
"It's just significant that he needed to have treatment," said Moralez's lawyer James E. Lindeman III.
Wilkerson disappeared after leaving Pearland ISD's Pace Center campus the week before Thanksgiving 2010. His parents notified police when they found his truck in a strip mall parking lot later that evening. After an extensive search by authorities and volunteers, the teen's body was found the next day across the county line.
Authorities said Moralez, then 19, admitted beating Wilkerson to death with a wooden rod. At the time of his arrest, the Belize citizen did not have legal status in this country, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Reached by phone late Monday, George Wilkerson had little to say about the latest development in the case of his son's alleged killer.
"That's just the process they have to do," he said, adding that his family continues to deal with their loss. "It's just day by day, getting by."