Defendant found competent to stand trial in Metairie double murder _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Haraquon Degruy, 18 Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand releases information Sunday, April 26, 2015, about the arrest of two suspects in an apparently random, ‘execution-style’ killing of David and Nicholas Pence in Metairie. Normand said officials believe the suspects, Haraquon Degruy, 18, and Dexter Allen, 17, aimed to commit an armed robbery, coming in through an open side door of the home. Degruy was booked into Jefferson Parish Correctional Center with two counts of Accessory After the Fact to First Degree Murder and one count of Vehicle Burglary. Allen is in Orleans Parish Prison, with a Jefferson Parish hold on him for two counts of First Degree Murder.

Haraquon Degruy, who was found in October to be unfit at that time to stand trial for her alleged role in the brutal shotgun killing of a man and his son in their Metairie home, has now been declared mentally competent.

After a hearing last week, 24th Judicial District Court Judge Raymond Steib ruled Degruy, who has been held in a state psychiatric hospital for observation for the past six months, is fit to stand trial, court records show.

Authorities say Degruy, 19, and her boyfriend, Dexter Allen, 18, broke into almost 20 vehicles in Metairie on April 22, 2015, driving around the neighborhood in a white Toyota Highlander that Allen had carjacked in New Orleans earlier that day, ending up by chance at the Clifford Drive home of the Pence family.

There, just before midnight, Allen entered the home and found David Pence, 56, and his son Nicholas, 25, in the living room and shot them with a shotgun, authorities said. Hearing the noise, Beth Pence came downstairs to find her husband lying on a recliner bleeding and her son on his back with gunshot wounds.

The brutal, random nature of the killings stunned the quiet Metairie neighborhood.

P olice soon tracked the Highlander to a New Orleans East apartment complex, where Allen and Degruy charged officers in the vehicle and then led them on a chase that ended with a crash on Interstate 10, police said. Degruy was arrested there. Allen jumped into the Industrial Canal but was captured near Almonaster and Jourdan roads.

Allen is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and Degruy with two counts of being a principal to second-degree murder. Both also face 19 counts of simple burglary.

Steib’s ruling on Wednesday followed a 50-minute hearing in which court-appointed psychologist Rafael Salcedo testified the earlier recommendation that Degruy be declared unfit in October was made out of an abundance of caution.

But a doctor who evaluated Degruy for two months at the state hospital in Jackson said he found her capable of understanding the charges against her and assisting in her own defense.

Degruy’s attorney, Renee Bourg, has argued that Degruy was diagnosed as mentally disabled when she was 13 and that she tried to commit suicide after being raped when she was 14.

The pair’s trial had been set for May 9 but was continued.

Steib will hear more motions June 16, when prosecutors are expected to argue that prior criminal acts should be admissible at the trial.

Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.