Florida man charged in teen's 'unprovoked' murder found competent for trial

The Florida homeless man accused of fatally stabbing a 14-year-old Palm Beach Gardens boy has been found competent to stand trial by two psychologists.

Semmie Williams, a 39-year-old vagrant with a criminal record across multiple states and whose lawyer says he suffers from long-standing mental illness, is accused of stabbing Ryan Rogers in an unprovoked attack on the evening of Nov. 15, while the teen was out riding his bicycle.

The psychologists’ reports were not immediately made public. The authors told the Palm Beach Post they could not discuss their findings without a court order, and the 15th Circuit State Attorney's Office declined to comment, citing its policy on pending litigation.

Dr. Ian Lamoureux, a board-certified forensic psychiatrist based in Arizona, explained that the determination means the two evaluators found Williams to be both capable of assisting his defense and of understanding the "nature and objective" of the proceedings against him.

That means comprehending basic concepts, such as that the prosecutor is not trying to help him, that his defense attorney is working to get him the best possible outcome, and that he will be tried before a jury of their peers, he told Fox News Digital.

RELATED: Homeless man accused of killing teen has long criminal history in Central Florida, police say

"It suggests that he’s not so profoundly impaired by his illness that he’s, for example, hearing voices and would be talking to unseen others during the court proceedings," he said.

Williams’ attorney, Scott Pribble, argued in February filings that his client was far from able to "meaningfully participate" or "aid counsel." He has been charged with first-degree murder and could face the death penalty.

Even if Williams had been found incompetent, Lamoureux said that after treatment in jail or a mental health facility, he could have potentially been reevaluated and found fit to stand trial.

Pribble conceded as much in a February filing: "[Williams’] competency to proceed has been the subject of extensive litigation in a previous criminal case, and he was ultimately adjudicated competent to proceed in that case only after a lengthy hospitalization."

Even being deemed competent for trial, however, does not prevent his lawyers from using an insanity defense.

"The insanity defense is really going to boil down to what precisely he was thinking at the time," Lamoureux said.

Ryan left his home on his bicycle at around 6:39 on Nov. 15, according to authorities. When he failed to return by 10:30 p.m., his parents reported him missing.

RELATED: Florida police identify suspect in custody after teen's 'deliberate' killing

Court documents allege that Williams killed him around 7:31 p.m., when they crossed paths under an I-95 overpass in Palm Beach Gardens. Minutes earlier, surveillance video shows a man believed to be Williams approaching the area on Central Boulevard, where police recovered Ryan’s body.

Investigators said they found Williams’ DNA on a pair of headphones left at the scene and Ryan’s blood on a bandana in the suspect’s possession at the time of his arrest, more than two weeks later.

In an earlier interview with police, Williams denied any role in the crime. But he allegedly confessed to jail personnel. 

"Yea, I killed that motherf-----, and I’ll kill you too," he allegedly told a guard, according to court filings.

After his arrest, Williams was accused of attacking jail guards, calling one a "White devil," and, in a statement during the fingerprinting process, indicating that the attack on Ryan may have had a racial motive.

"While fingerprinting his left hand, I asked him if he understood the charges," Officer Michael McCabe wrote in an incident report. "He stated, ‘Yea, murder, because of what they did to Black people about giving them syphilis.'"


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Williams allegedly tried to break free from the officer’s grip but failed. Other guards helped place him in handcuffs.

He is being held without bail.

Palm Beach Gardens Police Chief Clinton Shannon originally described Ryan’s slaying as "a random act" with no discernable motive.

He already had a lengthy rap sheet in Florida as well as records in California and Georgia, where he most recently was accused of battering a senior citizen.

A YouTube channel attributed to Williams showed hundreds of short cellphone videos in which he appears to make delusional claims. One, on the night of the murder, was titled "First Blood 1982." The following day, after Ryan’s brutal stabbing death, he posted another claiming, "my next movie is gonna be ‘Blade 3:16.’"

YouTube did not respond to Fox News Digital’s questions about the channel but removed it in December.

Lamoureux said the videos may be evidence that Williams does suffer from mental illness and that he may be "incredibly paranoid," but it’s not uncommon for mentally ill people, including those diagnosed with schizophrenia, and still be found competent to stand trial.

 "Someone could be quite, quite dramatically impaired by mental illness around the time of the offense but then, due to either a combination of being off of drugs or on medications in the jail…they can be competent in the here and the now," he said.

During the proceedings however, Lamoureux said, Williams’ lawyers could try and revive the competency issue.

"These cases often are not very streamlined, especially when they're this high level of charges where obviously the prosecution's going to want to be very confident in their verdict," he said. "Assuming he is convicted, they don't want that verdict to potentially be overturned by a retroactive competency issue."

Fox News' Sarah Rumpf and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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