Moses Evans

A suspended Baton Rouge justice of the peace accused of brutally abusing his now ex-girlfriend and her three children over a decade is heading to a state mental hospital for further evaluation, a judge decided Wednesday.

State District Judge Beau Higginbotham, after reviewing the reports of two psychiatrists and a psychologist who examined Moses Evans Jr. late last year and who testified at a sanity hearing that began last week and ended Wednesday, said he is concerned about Evans' competency to assist his attorney.

That attorney, Martin Regan, argued Wednesday that psychiatrist Jose Artecona and psychologist David Hale, who examined Evans in November and December, respectively, questioned Evans' competency and recommended sending him to the state mental facility in Jackson for further examination.

Psychiatrist Janet Johnson also evaluated Evans, 56, in December, several months before he contracted the novel coronavirus at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and had to be placed on a ventilator. Johnson testified Wednesday it is unknown whether Evans' time on a ventilator impacted his mental capacity.

"The evidence weighs in favor of further examination," Regan told Higginbotham.

Prosecutor Melanie Fields noted that competency to proceed is a legal — not medical — determination and she argued there was not enough evidence to find Evans incompetent.

The judge said he will review Evans' sanity on March 29.

Evans, a former Baton Rouge police officer, is charged with domestic abuse battery by burning, second-degree battery, aggravated second-degree battery, cruelty to juveniles and second-degree cruelty to juveniles. He has pleaded not guilty.

Johnson testified Evans told her the charges are false.

The aggravated second-degree battery counts allege Evans used guns, tools, cables, belts and pipes as weapons, according to a bill of information that Fields filed last fall.

Investigators seized security camera footage from Evans' house in July 2019. Police were looking for "images, photographs or live feed video of the abuse which occurred at the residence," a search warrant states.

The warrant also requested permission to seize various items that Evans is accused of beating his family with, including "rocks, flashlights, tools (wrenches and screwdrivers), tree pruners, garden tools, canned goods, fire extinguishers and extension cords."

His former girlfriend told detectives that over the years he bought numerous camera security systems, which have hard drives containing surveillance from both inside and outside the house, the search warrant says.

The warrant return did not indicate whether investigators found evidence of abuse on the videos.

Evans served 11 years with the Baton Rouge Police Department before retiring and was first elected justice of the peace in 2008. He was reelected in 2014, then disqualified by the Louisiana Supreme Court in summer 2019 from performing judicial functions while the current criminal case is open.

Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.