Doctors say Canada competent to stand trial
After being committed to a mental health facility in September of last year, William Canada, the Luling man accused of attempting to murder his estranged wife and her parents last August, has been determined mentally competent to stand trial and indicted by a grand jury.
Judge Timothy Marcel ordered Canada to return to court this month for a competency hearing after receiving a letter from East Louisiana Mental Health System’s Forensic Division (ELMHS) at Jackson, La., with the opinion that he showed the mental capacity necessary to assist in his defense. His attorney also has requested a bond reduction.
Canada was charged with three counts of attempted murder and attempted aggravated arson from the Aug. 2 incident in which he allegedly went to the Ashton Manor home of his in-laws where his ex-wife was staying, armed with a 9-mm semi-automatic handgun, a Molotov cocktail and two cans of gasoline. According to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, he then opened fire, shooting 40 rounds at the residence.
In a Dec. 22 letter from the Assistant Clinical Director of ELMHS, Marcel was advised, “after comprehensive evaluation and treatment of William Canada, in our opinion he presently has the mental capacity to proceed as he now understands the proceedings against him and can assist his attorney in his defense.”
According to state law, if at any time after a defendant’s commitment it is reported to the court that he or she has the mental capacity to proceed, the defendant shall be discharged into the sheriff’s custody of the parish from which he was committed.
Canada was evaluated last August by a court-appointed sanity commission of doctors who described him as “paranoid” and noted he provided an unlikely personal history, concluding that he understood there were charges against him but did not display a rational understanding of his situation. The report recommended that he be ruled incompetent in his ability to assist in his legal defense.
Last September, Canada was committed to ELMHS’ forensic division for evaluation and treatment. A court documented evaluation from that month reaffirms earlier concerns that he could communicate in court and with his attorney, but he lacked critical understanding of the proceedings and that could interfere with his ability to assist his defense.
A Dec. 20 evaluation reverses these recommendations, stating Canada displayed no evidence of confusion or disorganized thought and demonstrated sound, rational understanding of his legal situation and options. The document further states no symptoms of psychosis or impaired reality that could interfere with his rational ability were observed.
The report also notes Canada believed he was doing better because of the medication he was taking and said he could return to court for further proceedings if maintained on his current treatment regimen.
St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said a background search determined Canada, a U.S. Army veteran, was dealing with an addiction to painkillers from head injuries he sustained from an IED that exploded while on duty in Afghanistan.
After starting drug rehabilitation, Champagne said the man’s marriage of two years deteriorated and his wife filed for divorce on July 22.
Earlier on the day of shooting, Canada visited his recently sold residence in Chalmette.
The new homeowner reported to the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office that he had been drinking and acting erratically, which resulted in an alert issued for Canada’s whereabouts and a warning to his estranged wife.