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June 8, 2014

Enos denies request for competency evaluation for Bench

DUNCAN — A request for a new competency evaluation for Miles Sterling Bench was denied by District Judge Joe Enos, who said  Bench’s mental stability hadn’t changed since his competency hearing less than two months ago.

 Enos’ ruling keeps Bench on track for an August trial.

Bench, 23, of Velma, appeared in Stephens County District Court with two attorneys,  Bobby Lewis and Shea Smith, for the competency hearing.

The State of Oklahoma was represented by District Attorney Jason Hicks and Assistant District Attorney Leah Edwards.

Bench is charged with first-degree murder in the  bludgeoning death of 16-year-old Braylee Henry in June 2012. Henry died in the Velma convenience store Teepee Totem, where Bench was employed. Her body was recovered in a field near Bench’s grandparents’ home.

The state is seeking the death penalty.

In April, Bench and his attorneys spent three days before Enos and a jury of six for a competency hearing. The jury found him competent.

On Friday,  psychologist Dr. Curtis Grundy, testified for the defense by telephone, saying he thinks Bench suffers from schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder and is therefore incompetent to stand trial.

“I talked to him about his case and he was unable to stay on task,” Grundy said.

Grundy said he was concerned about Bench’s religious conversations, finding some of his beliefs to split dramatically from mainstream religious beliefs. He said Bench talked about aliens as they pertain to religion.

He also said Bench should be placed on medication.

For the State of Oklahoma, Dallas Cowen, Stephens County Jail administrator, testified that if Bench’s mental state has changed,  it  probably improved.

Since March, Bench has gained between 15 to 25 pounds, after losing about 100 pounds since his incarceration. Bench lost much of his weight by refusing to eat. Cowen said Bench was eating again.

Cowen said Bench has been compliant with authorities, but she testified his behavior does change in the days before doctors or investigators talk with him.

Following witness testimony, Hicks and Smith provided closing arguments. But it was Enos who had the final word.

“I do not find a doubt to his competency,” Enos said.

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