Competency review hearing held for Lovell murder suspect

A trial involving a man who allegedly killed his ex-wife, Carol Barnes, more than a year ago will move forward after a hearing on April 2.

A competency review hearing was held in Big Horn County Fifth Judicial District Court to go over the evaluation that was performed on Donald Joe Crouse at the Wyoming State Hospital.

At his Dec. 18, 2018, arraignment, Crouse pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness. Due to the plea, Overfield had ordered that an evaluation be done at the Wyoming State Hospital to determine whether he was competent to stand trial.

Donald Joe Crouse

Crouse appeared in person with his attorney, Timothy Blatt, at the hearing on Tuesday. The victim’s family was also present in the courtroom.

Big Horn County Attorney Marcia Bean told Judge Bobbi Dean Overfield that Crouse has been found competent to stand trial. She recommended proceeding to the trial that is tentatively set in June.

Blatt informed the court that he would be filing two motions. The first motion contests the findings of the evaluation. He is seeking a designated examiner to examine Crouse. Blatt did find an examiner, but was waiting to see if the state would approve the expenses of the examination.

The second motion was for the state to decide if it would pursue the death penalty in the case. Blatt argued that if the death penalty were being sought, Crouse would need a defense attorney who has death penalty experience, as required. Blatt said he does not have that experience.

Bean argued that the case has been on the docket for a long time. She told the court that the family of the victim has been very involved in the case. She said it’s time to get this case resolved.

Bean informed the court that she would have a decision on whether her office will seek the death penalty within 30 days.

Overfield decided to take the first motion under advisement. However, she ordered Blatt to provide additional information within 10 days. She also ordered Bean to inform the court on whether they will be seeking the death penalty within 30 days.

Crouse is charged with the first-degree murder of Barnes. The crime allegedly happened on Jan. 4, 2018, when Lovell p olice discovered her body. Her son had contacted the police after he received a text message from her saying she was in distress. Crouse is alleged to have kept a detailed log in which he planned Barnes’ murder. Crouse was later captured in Mills.

A three-week trial is tentatively set to start on June 3.

By Jessica Robinson