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Trial vacated in Phoenix speed-camera killing

The trial date for a man charged with killing the operator of a speed-camera van parked along a Phoenix freeway has been delayed so he can undergo a psychological evaluation.

The trial for Thomas Patrick Destories, 68, had been scheduled for Jan. 11, but was vacated so two doctors can evaluate his competency to stand trial. A competency hearing is scheduled for today.

Destories’ attorney, Vanessa Smith, wrote in court documents that her client has a history of mental illness dating back to 1970, that their conversations have been disjointed and that he has showed paranoia.

“Mr. Destories may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect that affects his ability to understand the proceedings against him and to rationally assist in his own defense,” Smith wrote in a court document.

Smith also wrote that Destories has “showed inappropriate emotions in discussions with defense counsel,” but did not elaborate in court documents. She did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

Prosecutor Vince Imbordino also declined to comment through a spokesman at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

The psychologist and psychiatrist evaluating Destories could find him competent, and his trial on a first-degree murder charge could be rescheduled. If they find him incompetent, they’ll say whether he can be restored to competency through treatment and put on trial later or whether he should be committed to a behaviorial-health center.

Destories, a Jeep tour operator, is charged with first-degree murder, drive-by shooting and firing a gun at a structure in the death of Doug Georgianni, 51. Georgianni was doing paperwork on the night of April 19 last year inside a speed-camera van in north Phoenix when police say Destories pulled up behind the van and then slowly alongside it before firing.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas has said prosecutors believe the killing was premeditated. He cited a court document written by police that said Georgianni had the interior light on when he was shot and that three of the five bullets fired were in a tight pattern on the van’s window where Georgianni was sitting.

Authorities haven’t said what they believe the motive might be, but said Destories and Georgianni had never met. Many simply assume the killing was the most extreme backlash against Arizona’s controversial photo-enforcement program.

Arizonans have used sticky notes, Silly String and even a pickax to sabotage the cameras since September 2008, when the first-of-its-kind program began snapping photos of freeway speeders.

Many people never realized the program’s mobile units often had people inside them, although now that’s no longer the case, leading some to speculate that Destories may not have known Georgianni was in the van.

Destories was arrested 12 hours after the killing and told police that he didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt.

“I’m sorry. I was going to turn myself in,” he said, according to a probable-cause statement. “I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt. I saw it on the news. The gun is in the saddlebag.”

Destories had no criminal history before the shooting, but his then-wife filed an order for protection against him in 1998, saying he assaulted her and her two daughters on one occasion. She later had the order quashed when she and Destories started getting along better during divorce proceedings.

The wife said in another court document that she thought Destories was an alcoholic and she was worried about him driving while drunk with the girls in the car.

Also, one of his daughters said in court records that she was sometimes embarrassed by her father, recalling a time when he marched back and forth with a bullhorn in front of a grocery store, berating the store’s operators for selling “smut magazines” like Cosmopolitan, according to a court document.

Georgianni, a resident of the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, had just a few days left on the job before he was to leave to sell insurance. He had married his wife Jean in 2006, and his family says the couple was very much in love and were about to celebrate their anniversary when Georgianni was killed.

Georgianni called his wife after he was shot, and she called 911. It was the last time the two spoke.

One of Georgianni’s sisters, Melanie Georgianni of Glendale, said she or another family member has been at every court hearing since Destories’ arrest to make sure no one forgets her brother and that justice is served. She said the family was disappointed when the trial was vacated seemingly “at the last minute.”

“He looks competent. When he’s in the courtroom he looks in control of himself and he looks like he knows exactly what’s going on,” she said. “It’s just frustrating to be sitting there in the courtroom, he’s cleaned up and looking very kept, and yet now we’re facing this delay.”

But, she said the family believes this is just a delay of the inevitable – “justice will be served to Destories.”

Another sister, Michelle Georgianni Kohl of Colorado Springs, wrote to Judge Michael Kemp on Dec. 10 that she and her family are “imprisoned forever with our inability to see Doug again, to ever have dinner with him, to go to a movie with him, to share family traditions with him, to hear his voice and laugh.”

“I have frequent nightmares of my brother being executed and dying all alone,” she wrote. “(Destories) was competent enough to drive his vehicle that night and competent enough to use his gun with precision.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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