A young Akron man charged with capital murder in the April slayings of a New Franklin couple has been declared competent to stand trial.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Tom Parker made the ruling Monday after attorneys briefly reviewed two psychological evaluations of the defendant, Shawn Eric Ford Jr. They asked the judge to keep the reports’ substantive details out of the public record for now.
Parker agreed. He then heard both psychologists testify that they found Ford competent and capable of assisting in his own defense and made the competency ruling from the bench.
Ford, 19, has been indicted on numerous death penalty specifications in connection with the April 2 bludgeoning deaths of prominent area attorney Jeffrey Schobert, 56, and his wife, Margaret “Peg” Schobert, 59, inside the master bedroom of their home in the Portage Lakes area of New Franklin.
Since Ford’s arrest, several days after the slayings, he has been held in the Summit County Jail’s mental health unit.
In another development in the case, Parker revealed a foiled suicide attempt while conducting a review, in open court, of Ford’s jail records.
Two weeks ago, Ford asked another county inmate to leave a sheet or towel in the shower area after the inmate was done so that Ford could hang himself, Parker said as he read reports jail officials had filed. How jail officials learned about the plan, or what they did afterward, was not explained.
Parker asked Ford whether he has showered since then; Ford said he has not.
Under further questioning from the judge, Ford said he would welcome the chance to take a shower if he were allowed to do so.
A court-imposed order prohibits all parties directly involved in Ford’s case, including family members of the victims, from commenting on case developments beyond court proceedings.
Four members of the Schoberts’ immediate family, including a daughter from the Columbus area who is working for a law firm, attended Monday’s hourlong hearing and sat close together in the front row of the public gallery. Afterward, they declined to comment as they stood in a courthouse hallway waiting to talk to prosecutors.
An independent psychologist, Dr. Robert L. Byrnes of Fairlawn, who was chosen by the defense, filed one of the psychological reports with the court in August. The second evaluation, filed Oct. 7, was done by Dr. Arcangela Wood, director of the Psycho-Diagnostic Clinic at the county courthouse.
Parker has known the contents of both reports for weeks and previously verified that each one found Ford to be mentally competent. Ford, however, refused to agree to the authenticity of the two reports, known in legal circles as a “stipulation,” and that decision led to Monday’s hearing.
A 14-year-old co-defendant, Jamal Vaughn, whose case is pending in Summit County Juvenile Court, also was arrested in connection with the slayings.
No trial date for Ford has been set. The next hearing in his case tentatively is scheduled for Nov. 26.
Under criminal trial guidelines, a trial date cannot be set in such cases until the matter of competency has been settled.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.