Judge: Shemwell competent to stand trial in January triple homicide

Cylar Lamar Shemwell

Cylar L. Shemwell, one of the two Owensboro men facing the death penalty in connection with a January shooting that killed three people on Audubon Avenue, was found competent to stand trial Monday in Daviess Circuit Court.

Shemwell, 32, of the 1600 block of Wisteria Gardens, was charged with murder and first-degree assault in the Jan. 17 deaths of Robert D. Smith, 35, Jay Michael Sowders, 43, and Christopher Carie, 18, who had all been shot in the head. A fourth person, Carmen Vanegas, was also shot in the head at the home but survived.

Arnett B. Baines, 31, of the 0-100 block of Dixianna Court, was also charged with murder and assault in the incident and faces the death penalty as well.

Shemwell was evaluated for competency at Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center in LaGrange in May and June. At Monday's hearing, Dr. Timothy Allen, a forensic psychiatrist at KCPC, testified that Shemwell was often uncooperative with evaluators and made threats against officers and staff.

Allen said his opinion is that Shemwell had "feigned mental illness" and feigned cognitive dysfunction.

For example, Shemwell's tested verbal IQ was 58, Allen said. But Shemwell would about talk about his concerns about "being an African-American in America" in a way that was "completely out of character for an IQ of 54," he said.

In another test, Shemwell "actively chose the wrong answers" to try to create a false impression of impairment, he said.

Shemwell at times would claim he did not know why he was arrested, but at other times would avow his innocence. Shemwell claimed to be suffering from hallucinations, but Allen said he believes those were faked as well.

Defense attorney Heather Blackburn noted Shemwell had received a prescription for antidepressants that also helps with sleep issues. She also asked if Shemwell has been evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

"He described situations in his life of experiencing and witnessing violence," Allen said, but Shemwell didn't otherwise show signs of PTSD, such as having flashbacks.

"Many of his complaints are legitimate complaints" about being treated differently as a black man in America, but, "I did not find, in my opinion, or no one else on the staff, that he was overly paranoid over those issues," Allen said.

Allen said the depression medication was not necessary for Shemwell to maintain his competency.

Circuit Judge Jay Wethington ruled Shemwell was competent to stand trial, which means he is considered able to understand the charges against him and participate in his own defense.

Wethington noted the defense also plans to have Shemwell evaluated by their own psychologist.

Wethington cautioned Shemwell to cooperate during his next psychological evaluation.

"If you want to mount a defense, you're not doing yourself any favors" by not cooperating, Wethington said. "... You're hampering your lawyers."

Shemwell will next appear in court in January.

Baines is currently set to go on trial in March, 2021. Shemwell's defense attorneys said they anticipated it would also be 2021 before Shemwell goes to trial.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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