SL stabbing suspect declared competent for trial a third time
After nearly seven years of being held in the Buena Vista County Jail and Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale, mental health officials have again determined Jose Tovar is competent to stand trial.
Sheriff Gary Launderville broke the news Friday during a Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors budget planning session.
"We're not looking forward to Mr. Tovar coming back, and the whole process starting all over again," he said. "They have said he is competent, but this is the third time they have told us that. By the time an attorney comes to see him, he is incompetent again."
For the past two months, Tovar has been held at Oakdale at the State of Iowa's expense. He will now be returning to the BV County Jail.
Tovar has yet to make a plea on the February 2006 stabbing at his family's rented 207 Seneca Street home in Storm Lake. His brother, Miguel Angel Tovar, died, while his father and mother, Jose Tovar and Maria Vela Tovar, survived despite serious injuries.
While District Court Judge Nancy Wittenburg has been assigned to the case, Launderville said
he was concerned that her "serious health issues" could delay proceedings.
When inmates with mental illness are held locally for an extended period of time, the jail's medication budget becomes stretched thin. Although prisoners are ultimately responsible for expenses incurred in jail, taxpayer dollars fund immediate services while individuals are incarcerated.
"When Tovar and (James) Thompson were in jail, we were running an average of $2,200 per month just for meds," Launderville said. "We try to get generics and do what we can, but with some of those psychiatric drugs, you can't get generics."
This fiscal year, medical costs for inmates have topped $80,000, Launderville said, noting the extreme fluctuations have made the budgeting process difficult.
"We are hoping next year we can do a turnaround and go back to that, other than the outrageous spot we are in now," he said. "This has just been a bad year."
However, with the department recently obtaining real-time GPS bracelets for home confinement, medical expenses are expected to decrease somewhat.
"There was one (inmate) who was costing us a fortune in meds, but as long as he is home, he is on his own," Launderville said. "We are able to make a little bit by keeping them on the bracelet and can also keep medical costs down."