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Judge OKs evaluation for teen accused in fatal fire

  • Hutchinson News
  • Published Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, at 6:56 a.m.


— A judge this week granted a motion to determine whether a 14-year-old Hutchinson teen accused of killing his mother and sister in a house fire is mentally competent to stand trial.

Reno County Chief District Judge Patricia Macke Dick said the attorney representing Sam Vonachen and prosecutors have not yet selected an agency to evaluate Vonachen, and no future court dates – including a hearing on the state’s pending motion to try him as an adult – have been scheduled.

Vonachen’s appearance before Macke Dick on Thursday was the first time he has left the Reno County Juvenile Detention Center since being detained Sept. 26. He was accused that day of intentionally setting his house on fire earlier that morning, killing his sister, Audrey Vonachen, 11, and mother, Karla Jo Vonachen, 47.

Prosecutors charged Vonachen with two counts of murder in connection with the deaths, as well as aggravated arson and the attempted first-degree murder of his father, Steve Vonachen, who escaped the fire.

At the hearing, which was closed to the public, Macke Dick also granted defense attorney Greg Bell’s motion to have access to the teen’s school records.

The judge said after the hearing that she would wait until the results from the competency hearing return to rule on a separate motion by Bell for the court to pay for an independent evaluation by a person of Vonachen’s choosing.

Mental competency is related to whether a person is able to understand the criminal charges against them and aid in their defense. It does not address issues of mental illness or insanity.

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