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    Accused murderer found incompetent to stand trial

    Franklin Delano Floyd faces a murder charge. Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty.

    By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2001


    LARGO -- A Pinellas circuit judge on Thursday said she will sign an order declaring Franklin Delano Floyd incompetent to stand trial for the 1989 killing of a nightclub dancer.

    The ruling indefinitely postpones his trial on a first-degree murder charge for the killing of 18-year-old Cheryl Ann Commesso, a Brandon woman whose skeletal remains were found along Interstate 275 six years after her death.

    Floyd, 57, will be locked up at the North Florida Treatment and Evaluation Center in Gainesville with the hope that he may one day regain his mental competency to stand trial.

    Until bed space is available at the secure facility, Floyd will remain at the Pinellas County Jail without bail.

    Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley did not say at a hearing on Thursday why she believes Floyd is incompetent. His assistant public defenders refused to say and the reports of three psychologists who examined him are sealed by court order.

    But two of the three said he is incompetent, his lawyers say.

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

    "I don't even want to hear that he's incompetent; that disgusts me," said Joyce Haughom of Tampa, Commesso's aunt. "I guess you have to be crazy to kill someone, but he should be punished. God will take care of that man in the end."

    Prosecutors who believe Floyd is competent planned to seek the death penalty against him at a trial that was scheduled to open March 27. Prosecutor Glenn Martin would not comment on the ruling.

    If doctors decide Floyd is once again competent, his trial will be reset. Floyd's competence will be reviewed again Aug. 15. Floyd didn't address the judge during the hearing, though Menadier told Ley that her client disputes that he is incompetent.

    "But as the court knows, his lawyers advocate his being found incompetent," Menadier said.

    Commesso's skeletal remains were found in 1995 by a landscaper in marshland along I-275 south of Roosevelt Boulevard.

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

    Police said they discovered photos of the victim, bound, beaten and either dead or near death, in a truck that Floyd stole during an unrelated kidnapping. Floyd, a career criminal serving a 55-year sentence for a federal kidnapping conviction, also is a suspect in two Oklahoma killings. He has denied involvement in Commesso's death.

    Last year, Floyd told Ley, "No psychiatrist in his right mind would find me incompetent."

    Haughom, the victim's aunt, finds herself in the unusual position of agreeing with Floyd. She thinks he's sane enough to stand trial right now.

    "At least he's locked up," she said, "so he'll never hurt anyone ever again."

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