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Man to get competency exam in slaying

An 85-year-old man who says he shot his ailing wife out of mercy will be evaluated to determine whether he's mentally fit to stand trial.

By JIM ROSS

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2001


INVERNESS -- As expected, a judge on Monday granted the Beverly Hills man accused of fatally shooting his wife permission to obtain a mental-health evaluation.

Clifford Micklos, 85, will pay for the examination, which could take place as soon as today. Micklos also will pay for his transportation to the doctor's Gainesville office and the security detail that the Citrus County Sheriff's Office must provide.

Micklos' lawyer, Charles Vaughn, outlined that agreement during a brief hearing Monday morning before Circuit Judge Barbara Gurrola. The State Attorney's Office agreed with the terms.

The evaluation is designed to help determine whether Micklos is competent to stand trial and assist in his defense.

Prosecutors have not yet decided how to handle Micklos, whom authorities are holding without bail at the Citrus County Detention Center. Micklos says he committed a mercy killing when he shot his wife, Ruth, last week in the couple's Beverly Hills home.

Mrs. Micklos, 80, suffered from a variety of ailments and had been hospitalized often during the past eight years, authorities said. Micklos told a 911 operator his wife wanted to die.

The prosecutor's office could convene a grand jury to review the evidence and decide what kind of criminal charge to bring. Prosecutors also could make the filing decision themselves, although only a grand jury can charge someone with first-degree murder.

In other court news:

A jury on Monday began considering a lawsuit that Crystal River resident William Webster has brought against Florida Power Corp.

About 5 a.m. on Oct. 11, 1995, Webster was driving on County Road 495. It was dark, rainy and foggy. Webster struck a train that was headed for Florida Power's energy complex. Webster said railroad warning lights failed and caused the accident. Florida Power maintains the rail line.

"You have a duty to tell people your train is coming across the road," plaintiff's lawyer J. Michael Shea said during his opening statement.

The utility said the equipment was fine and Webster was at fault.

The defense said it planned to call the train engineer as a witness. He was in the lead car; Webster struck one of the last cars on the train.

"When he (the engineer) went through the intersection, the crossing lights were flashing," defense lawyer Daniel Amat told the jury during his opening statement.

Webster seeks more than $15,000 to cover past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages and pain and suffering. He testified during the trial.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. today. After that, the jury will deliberate.

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