OAKLAND, California (Reuters) - A former nursing student accused of killing seven people at a Christian college in Oakland last April was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial on Monday.
The ruling, by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carrie Panetta, came after two doctors who evaluated the man, 44-year-old One Goh, determined that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.
“The defendant is not competent to proceed,” Panetta said. “Proceedings shall be suspended.”
She ordered that Goh undergo an assessment to determine where he should be placed for treatment of his mental illness. She scheduled another hearing in the case for January 28.
Goh wore a red jail suit with his hands and feet shackled and sat with seven other defendants in a jury box. He appeared to stare aimlessly during the proceedings.
If a judge later determines that Goh has regained his mental competency, he would be ordered to stand trial in the high-profile case.
Goh is charged with seven counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder in a shooting spree on April 2, 2012, at Oikos University, where he once attended nursing school. He has pleaded not guilty.
The shooting was the deadliest at an American college since 2007, when a Virginia Tech University student killed 32 people and wounded 25.
Authorities say they believe Goh became enraged after he dropped out of the nursing school last year and administrators refused to refund his tuition. A Presbyterian minister from Korea founded Oikos University as a vocational school in 2004.
Outside court after Monday’s hearing, Goh’s lawyer, assistant public defender David Klaus, stressed that the judge had only temporarily suspended the proceedings.
“He’s confessed to these crimes. He’s accepted responsibility,” Klaus said. “The idea is to have him go to a facility where he is expected to be restored to competency.”
He said a judge would review Goh’s competency to stand trial every 90 days.
“He will be going to a locked psychiatric facility to undergo treatment. He’s certainly a deeply troubled man. He’s locked up in shame and sadness.”
The 5-foot, 7-inch Goh weighed 220 pounds when he was arrested a few hours after the shooting rampage but looked considerably thinner on Monday. He refused food for four weeks after his arrest.
Klaus said confidential psychiatrists’ reports concluded that Goh may have suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for as long as 15 years. He never sought treatment and has refused medication in jail.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O‘Malley, who has not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty, declined comment.
A man who requested anonymity but described himself as the partner of one of the women slain in the massacre said he believes Goh is just trying to game the system.
“I want him to stand trial because I believe he knew what he was doing that day,” the man said.
Court documents say Goh told investigators he went to the school in an industrial area of Oakland armed with a .45-caliber handgun and four magazines fully loaded with ammunition.
Reporting by Ronnie Cohen; Editing by Dan Whitcomb, Cynthia Johnston, Dan Grebler and Steve Orlofsky