An Emily man accused in the first-degree murder of his father-in-law will be evaluated for mental competency before a trial begins.
Crow Wing County Judge David Ten Eyck Monday ruled in favor of a defense motion to determine Steven Bernard Radke's mental competency to proceed and require a medical examination of the defendant upon defense of mental deficiency or mental illness.
A Crow Wing County grand jury returned an indictment of premeditated first-degree murder against Radke, who is accused of the June 20, 2007, shooting death of his father-in-law, Darrell Buesgens, at Buesgens' rural Emily home.
Radke, 39, handcuffed and shackled and wearing a blue jumpsuit, was present Monday in the courtroom in Brainerd with his attorney Gary Bryant-Wolf. Radke's trial was expected to start Jan. 26 but that date was pushed back slightly at Monday's hearing.
Accused of first-degree murder, Steven Radke will be evaluated before a trial begins.
Bryant-Wolf said he contemplated his motion early on during the case but withheld it. In trial preparation, Bryant-Wolf said examining tapes of Radke's statements at the scene and in talking to potential witnesses for the trial, he determined it would be unethical not to request the evaluation. Bryant-Wolf said he's been involved in a number of murder trials but never had one quite like this. He described Radke's statements at the scene as being beyond hysterical and beyond incoherent. While the motion comes late in the process, Bryant-Wolf said it was sincere.
Bryant-Wolf said the competency to proceed is less of a concern than the medical examination as Radke knows where he is and can talk about the case. Bryant-Wolf said Radke has no documented history of mental illness, but information he gathered in trial preparation caused him concern.
Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan said Bryant-Wolf mentioned a mental illness defense previously although Ryan said he has a different opinion.
"I believe Mr. Radke is fully competent to stand trial," Ryan said.
Ryan asked the court to determine if this would postpone the expected start date for the trial as the state has expert witnesses, including eight Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension scientists, arranging time on their schedules to testify.
Ten Eyck said he thought the mental evaluation was appropriate, but questioned if the competency to proceed determination was needed in an effort to keep the trial date on track. Bryant-Wolf said the two determinations seemed to go together. Ten Eyck said time is of the essence and if needed documents were presented to court administration for psychologist Edmund Nadolny by Tuesday, he was fairly confident for a Feb. 2 trial start date.
Court documents accuse Radke of driving to Buesgens' home, lying on the ground and shooting Buesgens twice with a rifle. Buesgens had been outside with his daughter, Melanie Radke, who was Steven Radke's estranged wife, and two of his grandchildren when the shooting took place.
A charge of first-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Radke also was charged by criminal complaint June 21, 2007, with felony second-degree murder with intent but without premeditation. According to the criminal complaint, Radke, who has a history of domestic violence, told investigators that he was not proud of shooting Buesgens but that Buesgens was not going to prevent him from seeing his children. Melanie Radke had been staying with her parents for several weeks.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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