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Psychologists have found that a Florida man accused of fatally stabbing a teenager and leaving his body near an interstate is competent to stand trial.
Ryan Rogers was just 14 years old when he set out for a bike ride from his Alton Community home at around 6:39 p.m. on Nov. 15, according to CBS affiliate 12 News. The high school freshman’s body was found near the I-95 overpass in Palm Beach Gardens — 75 miles north of Miami — the next day. The teen had sustained stab wounds to his head and face.
Surveillance footage and cell phone records put Semmie Lee Williams Jr., 39, and Rogers on Central Boulevard at the same time, near where Rogers’ body was later discovered, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Williams was arrested in Rogers' death on Dec. 1 in Miami, when authorities found a bandana containing Williams’ and Rogers’ blood in the suspect’s backpack.
He was subsequently charged with first-degree murder with a weapon, the State Attorney’s Office announced.
Questions were raised about Williams' competency immediately following his arrest. That's when Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael McCabe asked Williams if he knew why he was under arrest, according to an incident report cited by NBC affiliate WESH 2.
“Yeah,” Williams replied. “Murder, because of what they did to Black people about giving them syphilis.”
Shortly after, Williams attempted to wrestle McCabe to the ground.
Williams, police and reporters discovered, regularly posted concerning videos to his YouTube account, according to the Post.
Hours before Ryan Rogers' murder, Williams uploaded a video in which he said police were following him.
“They put implants all over my body, in my eyes,” said Williams. “They can see through my eyes.”
“Somebody attacked me last night,” Williams posted one day after Rogers’ murder. “They had people ride past me on bikes, and I’ve been getting physically assaulted.”
Other cell phone videos uploaded to Williams’ YouTube page included what many deemed paranoid delusions, such as the belief that cults were out to get Williams and strangers were conspiring against him, according to West Palm Beach CBS affiliate WPEC.
Those videos generally chronicled Williams’ nomadic travels from state to state as he expressed his belief in a deep-seated conspiracy against him that presented as the idea that he was being stalked, persecuted and sexually assaulted, according to the Post.
The YouTube channel was removed following Williams’ arrest.
Public defenders representing Williams say their client has “long-standing and persistent mental illness,” including a schizophrenia diagnosis.
Assistant Public Defender Scott Pribble agreed in February, according to the Post.
“Because of his severe mental illness, he appears unable to testify relevantly, to disclose to counsel facts pertinent to the proceedings at issue, or to otherwise meaningfully participate in and aid counsel,” Pribble wrote.
Still, in January, prosecutors had announced their intent to seek the death penalty in Williams’ case.
On Wednesday, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Charles Burton — who presides over the court’s mental health division — reviewed the reports of two psychologists tasked with evaluating Williams. Burton is expected to schedule a hearing in the coming weeks to hear expert opinion about the findings, which can be subject to questioning by both the state and Williams’ defense.
Williams — who is homeless — has a long, and violent, criminal history to his name, as reported by WPEC. Authorities released a list of his most notable criminal charges between 2004 and 2016, including the strangulation assault of an elderly person, two domestic assaults and carrying a concealed electronic weapon.
Williams' was deemed unfit to stand trial in the strangulation case and spent two years in a Georgia psychiatric facility until competency could be restored, according to the Post. For the next two years — between 2018 and 2020 — he was mandated to receive treatment in a Georgia residential program aimed at treating those with “severe and persistent mental illness.”
Williams is scheduled for another hearing on April 20, court records show. He is currently being held at the Palm Beach County’s Main Detention Center as he awaits trial.
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