Is Girls' Murder Suspect Faking Insanity?

A judge was expected to decide today whether the man accused of kidnapping and killing two Oregon City girls is mentally fit to stand trial for their murder, but now that decision could be on hold, after the man's lawyers asked to be removed from the case.

Ward Weaver, 41, faces multiple counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of Ashley Pond, 12, and Miranda Gaddis, 13, two girls who lived in an apartment complex near Weaver's home and vanished two months apart in early 2002.

Both girls disappeared early in the morning, when they were on their way to school. Their bodies were found in August 2002, buried in the back yard of Weaver's property.

Weaver is scheduled to go on trial in their deaths in June, but if the Clackamas County judge decides that he is not mentally fit, the case could be put on hold indefinitely.

Instead, Weaver would go to the Oregon State Hospital in Salem for treatment until he is deemed able to play a role in his defense.

Weaver's court-appointed lawyers, Peter Fahy and Michael Barker, both of Corvallis, filed a motion in March claiming that Weaver has shown himself to be unstable and that he is unable to help them prepare his defense.

On Monday, though, Fahy and Barker filed a new motion, asking to be removed from the case and claiming that Weaver has essentially fired them. The motion was made public late Tuesday.

"The attorneys are unable to communicate with their client about the case, and cannot inform him of decisions or suggestions, and get, or gauge, his response," the motion said.

In November, Clackamas County Judge Robert Herndon had warned Weaver that his erratic behavior and his lack of cooperation with his lawyers could force him to relieve the two attorneys of their duties.

"If you engage in a course of conduct that ultimately requires that I allow these attorneys to resign, you'll likely be on your own," the judge said.

That kind of erratic behavior has continued, according to the findings of the psychiatrist the two lawyers hired to examine Weaver.

Dr. Jerry Larsen, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University, wrote in his evaluation that Weaver suffers from hallucinations and refuses to take his antidepressant medication.

The psychiatrist wrote that Weaver's mental state had deteriorated since what seemed to be a suicide attempt in January, when he was found cutting at his arms with a disposable razor.

"His condition now is even more serious as he has carved on his chest telling me that initially he wanted to cut out his own heart," Larsen wrote. "He has continued to carve on both forearms and told this examiner that he intends to 'stop the pain.' "

When he appeared in court for a hearing on that motion on March 11, Weaver had a scraggly beard and appeared not to be following the proceedings.

Herndon ordered a second examination of Weaver by a psychiatrist chosen by prosecutors, and said he would make a decision after hearing that doctor's findings.

Weaver has a history of what could be described as erratic behavior, including announcing to the media that the police considered him the lead suspect in the case — before the police had ever mentioned him.

Once he was behind bars, he repeatedly contacted the media to give interviews and make statements, until the judge handling the case finally issued a gag order in November 2003.

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