More delays in Justin Welch murder trial

Updated: Jan. 31, 2020 at 4:45 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Friday, a judge ordered for Justin Welch, who is accused of killing MPD Officer Verdell Smith and a restaurant patron in 2016, to undergo further mental evaluation.

Plans were set by the judge to prevent further delays down the road.

It’s still unclear whether Welch is competent to stand trial.

The uncertainty of medication level in Justin Welch’s body halted his murder trial. Though previously ruled as competent to stand trial in 2018 --- now almost two years later, on the eve of his trial, questions were raised.

“I think that the issue of competency is in question enough that we should not proceed without it being locked down a little bit, a little bit better,” said W. Mark Ward. Judge Criminal Court Division 9.

Those flags were raised 48 hours before Welch was to stand trial for the murders of Officer Verdell Smith and Joshua Walton in June 2016. Those deaths were the result of a violent crime spree.

Investigators say Welch shot two people at Westy's, a Bass Pro employee, then hit Officer Smith's car near Beale Street and Third.

On the eve of his trial slated for Monday, a state social worker told the court Thursday Welch “appeared grossly psychotic.” After a review of his medical records it was discovered Welch stopped taking his prescribed medication for the past five months as ordered by the judge.

Welch was previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features.

“I am requesting we send him back to Middle Tennessee Mental Health Hospital and do a full evaluation about his competency to stand trial,” said Greg Gilbert, prosecutor.

The judge ordered periodic competency evaluations of Welch leading up his trial where doctors could be subpoenaed to assure the court medication and blood work is being done as ordered.

All parties will be back in court Monday to hopefully set a new court date and decide on Welch’s next steps for further evaluations.

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