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Crane climber not fit for trial

A Clearwater man charged with killing his ex-girlfriend - then making national news by perching atop a crane in Atlanta for more than two days - has been declared incompetent to stand trial.

By CHRIS TISCH, Times Staff Writer
Published August 24, 2006

A Clearwater man charged with killing his ex-girlfriend - then making national news by perching atop a crane in Atlanta for more than two days - has been declared incompetent to stand trial.

Carl E. Roland, 43, is charged with first-degree murder in the May 2005 death of Jennifer L. Gonzalez, 36, a mother of two girls. Pinellas County sheriff's detectives said Roland strangled Gonzalez and left her body in a retention pond at her Oldsmar apartment complex.

Roland fled to Atlanta and climbed a 25-story construction crane over a busy street. It took authorities 56 hours to coax him down.

Authorities returned Roland to Pinellas County to face a murder charge. But three doctors - two appointed by a judge and a third hired by Roland's defense team - have found him incompetent to stand trial.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Tim Peters this week ordered Roland transferred to a state mental health facility.

It is not unusual for hospital officials to provide medication and treatment to such inmates, then return them to court as competent to stand trial. Both a prosecutor and a defense lawyer involved in the case said Wednesday they believe that will happen with Roland.

"I think the doctors in the report felt he was restorable," said Ron Eide, an assistant public defender. "I believe he'll probably come back."

Prosecutor Fred Schaub said Roland could be returned to Pinellas County within three to six months. He said Gonzalez's family members have attended every court hearing since Roland's arrest.

"They want to see justice, and that's what we're going to give them," Schaub said. "Hopefully, we'll get him back as soon as possible."

Doctors who have examined Roland believe he is depressed and has personality disorders. He worked as a computer software salesman before Gonzalez's killing.

"He's a very bright fellow," Schaub said. "He held an occupation that required a good deal of intellect. He was a professional before he committed this crime."

Peters has set a status check in the case for Feb. 5.

[Last modified August 24, 2006, 07:09:04]


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