Perry judge cancels shooting suspect's hearing for mental evaluation

A judge has denied a request for a mental competency evaluation for the man accused of killing a doctor in Perry County, saying she does not have jurisdiction over the question.

Perry District Judge Leigh Anne Stephens canceled a hearing on John Carles Combs' motion to be moved to Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center, citing Kentucky statutes that say only trial judges have the ability to rule on mental competency. Because Combs is charged with a felony, Stephens would not be his trial judge.

Combs, 46, is accused of shooting and killing Dr. Dennis Sandlin, 57, on Dec. 8 at his Cornettsville clinic. Combs has pleaded not guilty, and this week his attorneys waived their right to a preliminary hearing, effectively sending the case to a grand jury.

Combs' attorneys on Tuesday said that they didn't think Combs could help them prepare his defense and that he had been tried in the media, without being allowed to present his side of the story.

"Am I disappointed, sure, because I would have liked to move it along a little bit," Combs' attorney Michael Eubanks of Richmond said of Stephens' decision.

Eubanks said he thinks Combs will be evaluated eventually, both on the question of his competency to help in his defense and on his state of mind the day of the shooting.

"I understand the district judge's ruling. We will wait and refile at the circuit court level," Eubanks said.

In court Tuesday, Stephens expressed unease with the defense counsel's motion to have Combs moved from the Kentucky River Regional Jail in Hazard to the psychiatric facility in La Grange. Combs also is charged with assaulting two guards at the jail this week.

His attorneys' motion said he suffers from "severe anxiety, suicidal tendencies and chronic pain." It said Combs' family thinks he needs help.

"I'm still at odds with this" motion because Combs has not been indicted, Stephens said Tuesday. Later that day, she set a hearing on the matter for Monday, but on Wednesday, she decided to cancel the hearing.

Stephens also issued an order setting aside a ruling to grant Combs aid in obtaining forensic psychology assistance because he is indigent. Now that Combs' family has been able to hire private attorneys, he no longer can be considered indigent, Stephens wrote. Combs is listed in court records as unemployed.

Combs' mother, Laura Combs of Redfox, in Knott County, said she was not ready to talk publicly about her son.

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