Man with dementia faces prison after Rockcastle Co. plea in sister's death

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comMarch 6, 2013 

A 79-year-old former schoolteacher who has been diagnosed with dementia will be sentenced next month in the Rockcastle County traffic death of his 83-year-old sister.

Clyde White entered an Alford plea to second-degree manslaughter charges in Rockcastle Circuit Court, said Assistant Rockcastle Commonwealth's Attorney Jeremy Bartley.

Under the Alford plea, White maintained his innocence but acknowledged that there was enough evidence to convict him, so he pleaded guilty but mentally ill, his Attorney Jerry Cox said Wednesday.

Bartley said the case was unusual in that psychiatrists who examined White for the prosecution said he would have been competent to stand trial. But White had dementia and depression when he rammed a van in which his two siblings were riding, causing his sister's death, according to the psychiatrists.

The psychiatrists said White's conditions "impaired his capacity to understand the criminality of his conduct," according to Bartley,

White's sister Dorothy Whitaker, 83, of Richmond, died in August 2011. She was a passenger in the van driven by another brother, Lawrence White, who at the time was 82 and lived in Lexington, according to Herald-Leader archives.

Clyde White allegedly smashed his van multiple times into the van that Lawrence White was driving, state police said at the time.

Police have said an off-duty trooper reported seeing the chase as the vans traveled south on Interstate 75.

The vans exited onto Ky. 461. Clyde White eventually forced his brother's van off the road, police said. It hit a DirecTV van that was parked on the shoulder near U.S. 150.

Lawrence White was injured but survived.

Clyde White originally was charged with one count of murder, one count of attempted murder and two counts of wanton endangerment, according to Herald-Leader archives.

When White is sentenced on April 26, Cox said, he will ask the judge to send White to a hospital where he could be cared for as a dementia patient. Cox said he did not think the state prison system could adequately care for people with dementia.

White would be eligible for parole in about six months, Cox said. White has been at the Rockcastle County Detention Center since his arrest in 2011.

Although Cox wants White sent to a hospital, the class C felony conviction means White faces five to 10 years in prison. The prosecution recommended 10 years.

Prosecutor Bartley said the state Department of Corrections would determine how or whether to deal with the dementia diagnosis if White is sent to prison.

Lisa Lamb, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections, said inmates who are suspected of having dementia are reviewed by mental health staff to determine their appropriate placement. Depending on the outcome of the review and the severity of the disease, Lamb said, a prisoner could be placed in the state prison system's Nursing Care Facility or the Corrections Psychiatric Care Unit.

Lamb said the Department of Corrections' now has at least seven inmates with what she called "third-stage dementia."

"We are currently in the process of developing a new treatment plan for offenders with this diagnosis (dementia/Alzheimer's)," she said in an e-mail.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter:@vhspears.

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