Times seeks suspect's records
By Times staff writer
LARGO -- The St. Petersburg Times went to court Tuesday to argue that past reports about the mental competence of a man accused of beheading an 18-year-old with a machete should be open to the public.
Penelope Bryan, an attorney for the newspaper, argued that the state's competency evaluations of Dennis George Roache in two previous criminal cases and a traffic case are a matter of public record and should not remain sealed in court files.
Bryan argued that the records should be opened so the general public can better understand how the mental health system operates, now that G. Pierce Wood state mental hospital has closed, making less space available for mentally ill people in state hospitals.
Judge Brandt C. Downey III took the matter under advisement and said he would rule on the case soon.
The Times has filed a motion in Pinellas Circuit Court asking a judge to unseal competency reports in the three cases.All three cases came before Roache's arrest last week on a first-degree murder charge.
Roache, 34, is accused of beheading Gregory Shannon, 18, with a machete Feb. 4. Police said Roache attacked Shannon after finding him with Roache's ex-girlfriend.
More than once, courts found Roache mentally incompetent to stand trial.
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