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Judge to rule if murder defendant is fit for trial

His attorneys say he isn't competent to assist his defense in the 1989 slaying of a nightclub nude dancer.

By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2001


LARGO -- Attorneys for a man accused of the 1989 killing of a nightclub nude dancer whose body was dumped along Interstate 275 say he isn't competent to stand trial.

And two of three court-appointed psychologists who have examined him agree.

Attorneys for Franklin Delano Floyd are hopeful that a judge will declare him incompetent and postpone his March trial on a first-degree murder charge so Floyd can receive mental-health treatment.

His trial could be indefinitely postponed until he again is deemed competent and able to understand and assist in the proceedings against him.

At a hearing on Thursday, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley said she would soon make a ruling, perhaps within days.

While prosecutors insist Floyd, 57, is competent, Public Defender Bob Dillinger said, "He clearly has a difficult time with parts of reality."

Prosecutors seek the death penalty against Floyd for the killing of 18-year-old Cheryl Ann Commesso, a Brandon woman who disappeared in April 1989. A landscaper found her skeletal remains six years later in marshland along I-275 south of Roosevelt Boulevard.

The skeleton was dubbed "Jane Doe I-275" until Commesso's remains, including a breast implant, were identified a year later. An anthropologist found that she died from a beating and two gunshots to the head.

Although Floyd has denied the killing, police said they discovered Polaroid photos of the victim, bound, beaten and either dead or near death, in a truck that he stole during a kidnapping. Floyd, a career criminal serving a 55-year sentence for a federal kidnapping conviction, also is a suspect in two other unrelated killings in Oklahoma.

Assistant Public Defender Jill Menadier has told a judge that Floyd has a history of mental problems, including schizophrenia, and has previously been committed to psychiatric hospitals.

Judge Ley also has raised concerns about Floyd's competence, referring to a series of disjointed and bizarre letters Floyd has mailed to her.

In one letter, Floyd wrote, "I will trudge the last miles to the death house crumpled before the legal system towards the electric chair which awaits me like the mother I once loved."

The prosecutor in the case did not return a call for comment.

Floyd has repeatedly tried to fire his attorneys and insisted to Ley during hearings that he is innocent and sane.

In November he told the judge, "No psychiatrist in his right mind would find me incompetent."

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