By VANESSA REMMERS
CHESTERFIELD – A Dinwiddie County man accused of killing two Chesterfield women and suspected of killing his father was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial Friday.
Herbert Bland Jr., 23, had to be guided by court officers when he appeared binded in handcuffs before a judge in Chesterfield General District Court. Bland’s rolling, blank gaze fell across those in the courtroom before officers nudged him toward the judge’s bench.
Bland did not answer any questions and swayed slightly as the judge decided to continue his case until July 10, during which time doctors will attempt to restore his mental competency.
“You need to cooperate with your doctors who are going to help you,” the Hon. James J. O’Connell III said. “And you need to keep in touch with John Rockecharlie [Bland’s defense attorney] who is going to help you.”
Bland will reappear in court July 10 for mental reassessment. If doctors are not able to restore his mental competency by that time, the judge may continue the case for another 90 days.
Bland’s court-appointed defense attorney John Rockecharlie said that he would not be surprised if the case is continued for six to nine months.
“I have dealt with people who are trying to fake it, and those that are not. He is definitely not faking it,” Rockecharlie said.
The judge based his decision on a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation that took place not long after Bland was charged for fatally shooting Elizabeth Fassett, 42, and her mother, Barbara Fassett, 65.
That evaluation, performed by court-appointed forensic psychiatrist Dr. Evan Nelson, found that Bland was mentally incompetent. Nelson based his findings on whether the defendant could understand the charges against him and whether he could help his defense attorney defend him.
“It is just clear that he is not connected to reality,” Rockecharlie said of his attempt to talk with his client.
Doctors from Central State Hospital will visit Bland at Riverside Regional Jail. They will likely give Bland a diagnosis, Rockecharlie said.
Police believe Bland killed the two Chesterfield women earlier in the afternoon of Jan. 7 before making the 20-minute drive back to his Dinwiddie home. An encounter with his father in that residence ended with the son shot in the chest and the father, Herbert Bland Sr., dead.
A UPS worker delivering a package to the Fassett home in the 5200 block of River Road in Chesterfield discovered the bodies of the two women later in the afternoon. Police believe Bland had been romantically involved with Elizabeth Fassett in the past.
Dinwiddie deputies were alerted to the Bland residence in the 2000 block of Harris Drive by Herbert Bland Sr. The father believed his son had taken his gun and used it in a shooting, according to court records.
When a deputy arrived at the scene, Bland Jr. stumbled outside the residence holding two pistols. He told authorities that his father had shot him and that he shot his father in the head, according to court records.
The killings came four months after the younger Bland completed two years of court-ordered psychiatric treatment. That court order stemmed from an August 2010 incident where the younger Bland was accused of physically assaulting his parents, court records show.
Dr. Walid Fawaz of the Virginia South Psychiatric Family Services placed the younger Bland on a variety of medications including Haldol, an anti-psychotic drug, Paxil, which is used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression, and Risperdal, which is mainly used to treat schizophrenia.
Court records show that Bland Jr. attended all of the appointments and complied with the medications. He continued to live with his parents and was unemployed.
“He is doing a little better and does not feel paranoid … does still feel that people can control him,” Dr. Fawaz wrote in a progress report. “He has had no suicidal or homicidal ideas.”
The 2010 case was dismissed in September 2012, once Bland’s treatment was completed.
Charges against Bland in connection to the death of his father are still pending. Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s Attorney Lisa Caruso has said that she is waiting as Bland progresses through the Chesterfield court system.
– Vanessa Remmers may be reached at 804-722-5155 or email@example.com