DA: Woman in farm murder is mentally competent

Posted at 1:17 PM, Jan 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-08 20:24:23-05

A woman accused of murdering her husband and then hiding his body in a pile of manure on his farm has been found mentally competent.

Charlene Mess, 48, was initially found not mentally competent for trial by two court-appointed doctors, but the Wyoming County District Attorney Donald O'Geeen disagreed with their determination. A doctor chosen by the District Attorney found Mess is mentally competent.

Because of the conflicting reports, the court will hear evidence on February 11th and make a final determination.

O'Geen argues one of the court-appointed doctors spent 45 minutes with Mess while the other only spent an hour and 15 minutes with her. He says neither doctor reviewed her prior medical history or other events between the time of the crime and the printing of their reports.

Mess has not filed any notice that she is not guilty due to being insane. That defense is used when a person is claiming they did not know the difference between right and wrong at the time of the crime.

A not guilty plea due to being insane is different than whether or not a person is mentally competent to stand trial, which is not a defense or a plea.

Under current law, a person has to be able to understand the nature of the proceedings and be able to assist in their defense before the trial can go forward. If they are found incompetent, the person is sent to a secure mental health facility until they are declared competent.

When or if a person is competent, they are returned to jail and the trial proceeds. The person is not released.

Mess is facing charges of second degree murder, criminal use of a firearm, first degree and second degree assault, tampering with evidence, offering a false instrument to file and false written statement. She pleaded not guilty.

In April, State Police were called to the Mess dairy farm on Exchange Street in Attica after 52-year-old Douglas Mess was reported missing by his son. Douglas had not been seen since since the night before and did not show up to work.

Officers conducted a ground and aerial search and found Douglas’s body concealed in a pile of manure in the back of his farm.

State Police Captain Steve Nigrelli said, "The body was found by family and friends and it was a coordinated search. The discovery was by civilians."

Police say his wife of 30 years, Charlene Mess, killed him. Prosecutors say Charlene hit Douglas in the head and body with a pitchfork before shooting him in the back of the head with a .22 rifle. She then allegedly buried his body in manure at the back of the farm.

Close friends tell 7 Eyewitness News Charlene and Douglas had marital problems.

Mess remains behind bars on $1 million bail.




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