Pocatello man accused of murdering Nori Jones deemed incompetent for trial

Brad Scott Compher

Brad Scott Compher

By Shelbie Harris, sharris@journalnet.com

POCATELLO — The family of Nori Jones has waited nearly 14 years to see her killer brought to justice and will continue to wait indefinitely while the state of Idaho evaluates the mental competency of the man accused of her murder.

Brad Scott Compher, also known as Ralph Roy Compher, 42, of Pocatello has been charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Jones, who was 25 years old at the time of her death. Compher was back in court Thursday where the honorable Sixth District of Idaho Judge Stephen S. Dunn found Compher mentally incompetent to stand trial.

“We filed a motion that said we were not contesting the report that he is potentially unfit to stand trial,” said JaNiece Price, the assistant chief deputy prosecutor in Bannock County. “The judge found that he is incompetent to stand trial at this point and he will be turned over to the care and custody of the Department of Health and Welfare for what they call restoration proceedings.”

Currently incarcerated at the Bannock County jail, Compher’s criminal case has been indefinitely suspended. Compher will undergo an evaluation completed by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare within the next 30 days, Price added. Judge Dunn will review the results of that evaluation and determine if Compher should complete treatment to become competent at the State Hospital South in Blackfoot or at an Idaho Department of Correction facility.

“The case is essentially suspended and then we’ll have what we call restorative action to try and restore him to competency to stand trial,” said Brian Trammell, Bannock County deputy prosecutor. “(Compher) will go to the custody of the Department of Health and Welfare and they have a team who will evaluate him and do whatever actions they need to do to help restore him to competency to stand trial.”

Once the location to treat Compher has been determined, the Department of Health and Welfare has 90 days to submit a report to judge Dunn that indicates whether Compher has become competent to stand trial, said Compher’s attorney, Randall Schulthies.

If Compher is not restored to competency, the Department of Health and Welfare can extend the period of criminal commitment for an additional 90 days, said Schulthies, adding that if Compher remains mentally incompetent after the 180 days the Department of Health and Welfare can begin civil proceedings that would commit Compher for a period no longer than one year.

“Most individuals are eventually restored to competency and court hearings proceed,” Schulthies said.

Judge Dunn declared Compher incompetent based on an evaluative report completed last month by Dr. David Moulton, a forensic psychiatrist in Salt Lake City.

In Idaho, no law exists that affords an attorney the use of insanity as a defense in state courtrooms. Rather, Idaho courts determine whether a suspect is capable of criminal intent, and if that defendant can understand the charges against them.

If the mental health of a person charged with a crime in Idaho is called into question, an attorney can order a competency assessment to be completed by a licensed psychologist. During the assessment, the psychologist determines if the person is competent enough to stand trial. The person must understand the charges against them, understand the basics of the legal system and have the wherewithal to participate in their defense.

“These (evaluations) were (part of) pretrial motions filed to protect his due process rights and make sure that he understands the process and can competently understand representation and represent himself at trial,” Price said.

The state didn’t contend the validity of the report or Moulton’s credibility, but it did argue last month that one subsection of the report was missing regarding the defendant’s ability to receive treatment for his incompetency that is required by Idaho statute.

Dr. Moulton completed the subsection, which was delivered to Judge Dunn last month. Moulton found that Compher could participate in his treatment, but he didn’t specifically say how competent he was to provide input on how the treatment could proceed, Schulthies said. State prosecutors declined to challenge Moulton’s findings.

Compher, who faces the death penalty, was arrested in 2014 after advances in DNA technology brought new evidence in the murder case to light.

Pocatello Police Chief Scott Marchand in 2014 told the Journal that Compher first became a person of interest in the case in 2010 after police received a positive hit from the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System shared by police departments nationwide along with the FBI and CIA. The hit came on a single fingerprint recovered from the murder scene at in the 3000 block of Poleline Road, where Jones had been living when she was killed.

The case was cold for 10 years and has been in the courts for over three years without a date set for trial.

“I think the judge made the proper decision today,” Schulthies said. “There may be an issue on placement but that won’t be determined until Health and Welfare completes their initial evaluation.”