Bass Webb found competent a second time to stand trial in a girlfriend's death

It's the second time he has been ruled competent in a girlfriend's death

jkegley@herald-leader.comApril 8, 2011 

CYNTHIANA — Family and friends of a slain Harrison County woman gathered in court Thursday, watching silently as the man accused of killing her was ruled competent to stand trial.

Bass Webb, who appeared in Harrison Circuit Court in shackles and wearing a mesh face mask, is charged with murder in the death of Bryia Runiewicz on July 31, 2009.

Members of her family said they were not surprised that Webb, 31, was ruled competent. Last year, a Montgomery County judge issued a similar ruling in a case involving Sabrina Marie Vaughn, whom Webb is also accused of killing.

"In other courts, they found him competent," said Scott Darr, Runiewicz's brother. "There was really no issue why he should have even been up here going over this again."

Webb's attorney, public defender Craig Newbern, also said he was not surprised.

"I think we did expect it, but in a case of this magnitude, we can't afford to leave any stones unturned," Newbern said. "You have to make sure you're not missing anything."

Judge Jay Delaney heard testimony from a psychiatrist at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center, where Webb was assessed for several weeks in November.

Dr. Amy Trivette testified that Webb showed signs of personality disorder, which could make it hard for him to interact with others, but said he did not have a severe psychotic disorder, mood disorder or psychosis.

She testified that he has the ability to participate rationally in his own defense.

Newbern, Webb's attorney, did not refute Trivette's findings. He asked whether it was possible that Webb's diabetes could affect his mental state. Trivette said blood-sugar levels could affect someone mentally, but she did not think it was the case with Webb, though she noted "he was not completely compliant" with treatment for his diabetes.

Webb also took medication for depression, anxiety and insomnia while at the facility, she noted.

Webb is charged with violent crimes in several counties.

He was indicted in Vaughn's death in Montgomery County last April. Vaughn, his former girlfriend, was reported missing in 2003. Her skeletal remains were found in a densely wooded area near the Montgomery County line last year.

Last month, Webb was found guilty of felony assault and being a persistent felony offender in Fayette County. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for throwing a metal telephone that was ripped from a wall at corrections officer Bryan Richardson during a disturbance at the Fayette County jail June 6. The phone cracked a riot shield Richardson was holding to protect himself, but Richardson was not injured, witnesses testified during the one-day trial.

The murder charge in Runiewicz's death came after police said Webb tried to run over two Bourbon County jail employees with his vehicle in July 2009. He was charged with two counts of attempted murder there.

Police in Bourbon County said Webb confessed to killing Runiewicz after they caught him.

Webb and Runiewicz had dated for a time but broke up about two weeks before Runiewicz's death because she was scared of Webb, her family said.

After Thursday's hearing, Runiewicz's family members spoke with reporters about how they have been coping with her death. They said they would attend as many of Webb's court hearings as possible, even in unrelated cases, so Runiewicz would not be forgotten.

"She's not old news," said Dora Clair, Runiewicz's mother. "This will never — even after the trials are over — be over for our family."

Clair described her daughter as a motivated woman with a good sense of humor and a unique laugh. She said her daughter was "the backbone" of the tight-knit family.

Runiewicz, a one-time employee at the Bourbon County Detention Center, was studying to become a law enforcement officer. She died three days before she was to begin a job with the Department of Homeland Security, Clair said, leaving behind two daughters, Madyson, 10, and Morgan, 9.

Clair has been caring for the children since they lost their mother and father in the same month. The girls' father, Ernest "Benny" Williams, died of heart complications about two weeks before Runiewicz was slain, Clair said.

The girls go to sleep each night next to a framed picture of them in their mother's arms.

"She had goals for her children. ... She wanted them to go to college. She wanted them to have things that I can't give them," Clair said. "They miss her."

Webb wore the mesh face mask in the courtroom because he spit on Bourbon District Judge Vanessa Dickson during a hearing in August. On Thursday, Webb's public defender asked the judge for permission to remove the mask, but Delaney said no.

Webb is scheduled to be back in court in Harrison County for a status hearing June 2. A trial has been scheduled for Dec. 1 to 16.

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