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Defendant ruled not competent for trial

The second man charged in a pair of date-rape cases is sent to a hospital for psychiatric care.

By JENNIFER LIBERTO
Published February 2, 2006


TAMPA - Just days before he was scheduled to stand trial for helping Steven Lorenzo drug and torture young men, Scott Schweickert got a four-month reprieve for psychiatric problems.

Magistrate Judge Mark A. Pizzo ruled on Wednesday afternoon that Schweickert is not competent to stand trial. He ordered Schweickert committed to a hospital for psychiatric care for no longer than four months.

Schweickert, 40, of Peru, Ill., is charged with conspiracy and assisting in a drug-facilitated crime of violence against Michael Wachholtz and Jason Galehouse, both 26. The two men disappeared the same weekend in December 2003.

Lorenzo was sentenced last week to 200 years in prison for using the date-rape drug GHP to commit violence against nine men, including Wachholtz and Galehouse. Schweickert is accused of helping Lorenzo drug and torture Wachholtz and Galehouse but not the others.

The court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Donald R. Taylor Jr., said Schweickert believes he is staying at an Illinois hospital, not jail. Schweickert also has told jail officials that voices are telling him to kill himself. He has been on suicide watch in isolation.

During a 30-minute interview with Taylor on Tuesday, Schweickert lay on his bed and pulled a blanket over his mouth. He answered questions in a soft voice and curled up in a fetal position without making eye contact, Taylor told the court.

Schweickert told Taylor he didn't know the date, year or charges he faced. He didn't know if his charges were being litigated in state or federal court, Taylor said.

Taylor diagnosed Schweickert with "major depressive disorder with psychotic features." He told the judge he believed Schweickert could be treated and that his competency could be restored.

Schweickert's mental state started to deteriorate on Jan. 10, although he had lost about 20 pounds over the past several months, according to his jail medical records, which Taylor explained to the court.

Over the past few weeks, Schweickert has been tearful and disoriented, and jail medical officials have been giving him psychotropic drugs.

Schweickert stood hunched over and hugged himself as he was led in and out of the courtroom. Records filed recently showed Schweickert had talked to government investigators in May, providing more than eight hours of recorded interviews about the crime. Prosecutors plan to use portions of those recordings during the trial.

Lorenzo and Schweickert have not been charged with the murders of Galehouse and Wachholtz, but Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober told a gay-rights advocacy group, Equality Florida, that he intends to file murder charges.

[Last modified February 2, 2006, 02:15:36]


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