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September 13, 2013

Ray competent to stand trial for murder

DUNCAN — A judge on Thursday declared 16-year-old Michael Anthony Ray competent to stand trial for first-degree murder in the June stabbing death of 14-year-old Alyssa Wyles of Duncan.

Stevens County Special District Judge Jerry Herberger said a psychologist at the Oklahoma Forensic Center in Vinita found Ray was able to understand the charges against him, help in his own defense and was not undergoing treatment for mental disorders.

The ruling means court proceeding resume and Herberger set a preliminary hearing for Oct. 7 to determine if Ray should be bound over for trial. He is charged as an adult and could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling bars anyone under age 18 at the time a crime was committed from being sentenced to death for it.

Proceedings had been on hold since July 31 until Ray’s competency was determined. Although Herberger read “yes” or “no” answers from the evaluation report before ruling, the report will remain sealed.

Ray’s attorney, Jim Berry of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System, asked that the report remain sealed and Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks did not object.

Ray is accused of killing Wiles at her home in Duncan on June 10.

A 14-year-old boy accused of being a lookout that day told police Ray went to Wiles’ house because he was upset she had broken up with him. Ray allegedly kicked in the back door and stabbed Wiles in her bedroom. She was found later that day by her father.

The 14-year-old boy is charged as a juvenile with accessory to murder.

Ray, dressed in orange jail garb and cuffed at the hands and ankles, was silent during the hearing.

Three Stephens County sheriff’s deputies and a detention officer from the county jail were in the courtroom during the hearing, with one officer standing just behind Ray at the defense table.

Some of Alyssa Wiles’ family members attended the hearing and met privately with Hicks afterwards.

Hicks said he was pleased the court process - which was put on hold when Berry sought a competency evaluation - is moving again. He wished it moved along even quicker, he said, “but that’s part of the system.”

Berry noted that a not guilty plea had been entered for his client and said he and an office investigator were reviewing discovery material Hicks had turned over to them.

He said he would know more after the preliminary hearing, when prosecutors will attempt to present enough evidence to warrant a trial.

“I’m going to find out exactly what they have and the quality of their evidence and then we have to make an assessment after that,” he said.

Police say Ray confessed to the killing, but Berry said people should not read anything into that.

“We’ll see what kind of statements he (Ray) made and whether they can be tested,” Berry said.

Alyssa Wiles’ death came just a year and four few days after 16-year-old Braylee Henry of Velma was killed. Miles Sterling Bench, now 22, is charged with first-degree murder in her death and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

On Aug. 16, 22-year-old Christopher Lane of Australia was fatally shot as he jogged along Country Club Road in Duncan. Three teenage males are charged in his drive-by killing.

Both of those cases have generated considerable media attention, even international coverage in Lane’s death. But Hicks said all three cases were equally important for justice to be served.

“We will put everything into each one that we possible can,” he said.

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