Criminal proceedings were suspended Monday for the second time this year for a mentally ill Fresno man who is accused of killing his grandmother a day after he was released from jail.
Judge Alvin Harrell III made the decision in Fresno County Superior Court after defense attorney Jane Boulger said Travis Fendley, 23, tried to kill himself this month by cutting his throat.
Fendley also has told relatives he hears demons speaking to him, Boulger told Harrell.
SPECIAL REPORT: Read "Locked in Terror," which focused on Travis Fendley and other mentally ill inmates in Fresno County Jail.
Harrell ordered Dr. Luis Velosa to examine Fendley, who is being held without bail in the Fresno County Jail. The judge also signed subpoenas so prosecutor Stephanie Savrnoch, Boulger and Velosa can examine Fendley's medical and psychiatric reports before a Nov. 25 hearing on Fendley's mental health.
Savrnoch had asked for the records, telling Harrell that Fendley may be "playing a game with the system or playing possum."
She said Fendley did go to a local hospital for one week this month after he was correctional officers found him unresponsive and dry blood on his T-shirt. But Fendley also told a doctor who examined him months ago that he might plead not guilty to killing his grandmother by reason of insanity.
"This shows he knows what's going on and what defenses he has," Savrnoch told the judge.
But Boulger said Fendley made those remarks in June while locked up in Atascadero State Hospital.
Fendley, whose family says he has a history of schizophrenia, was a key figure in an eight-month Bee investigation, "Locked in Terror," published in August. It examined whether mentally ill inmates in the the county were receiving proper medication.
His family contended that Fendley had been prescribed psychiatric medication to control hallucinations and other symptoms, but he did not get the medications while in the jail. The Bee's investigation found other inmates in similar situations, and concluded the Fresno County policy has cost taxpayers money, caused innocent victims to be caught up in violence and left mentally ill inmates in worse shape than when they were taken into custody.
A criminal complaint accuses Fendley of strangling his grandmother, Joyce Frazier, 78, inside her Shields Avenue home in east-central Fresno on Dec. 18. His family said he was agitated and nervous when he was released from jail the day before.
Harrell first suspended criminal proceedings on Dec. 31. He ordered three doctors to examine Fendley.
After reading the doctor's findings, Harrell in April found Fendley legally incompetent to assist in his defense to stand trial and sent him to Atascadero State Hospital.
Boulger said Fendley didn't get transferred to the state hospital until June. A month later, state hospital officials notified Harrell that Fendley's competency had been restored, concluding he had a personality disorder, court records show. He was then returned to the Fresno County Jail.
Boulger said Monday that she disagreed with the state hospital's diagnosis since Fendley has "a long history" of schizophrenia. She also said her client's suicide attempt was real. She told Harrell she had visited Fendley in the hospital and saw stitches on his neck.
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