A San Benito County judge has ruled the woman accused of killing her 19-month-old daughter in November 2008 is incompetent to stand trial, and authorities will place her at a state mental hospital until she gets to a point where she is fit to understand the proceedings.
Following a written recommendation from a doctor who examined 40-year-old county resident Cheryl L. Busch, Judge Steven Sanders at the Thursday afternoon hearing ruled she lacks the necessary competence to stand trial. In early December, Busch's attorney had requested the evaluation for the woman suspected of shooting her daughter, Donna, with a .357 Magnum on the family's Shore Road property.
The doctor conducted a "battery of psychological tests" before making the determination, said Gregory LaForge, her attorney and the public defender. She remained at the San Benito County Jail this morning yet and will be sent to a state hospital once bed space becomes available.
At the state hospital, she will go through a trial competency program in which the staff there will try to get her to "a level of competence where she can understand what happens in a court setting," said LaForge, who cited "privileged communication" with his client in declining to discuss what led him to seek the doctor's evaluation.
As for the potential time frame for Busch's stay at a mental hospital?
"It could take weeks. It could take months. It could take years," LaForge said.
Busch's next court date is March 4 for a status hearing. It doesn't necessarily mean she will be in attendance, though. LaForge said the point of such hearings is to ensure "people don't get lost in the system."