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Tuesday, Sep 25, 2018
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Doctor deems mentally ill man unfit for trial in death of New Tampa father, defendant’s mother says

TAMPA — A doctor has determined that the man accused of running down and killing a New Tampa father is unfit to stand trial, according to the defendant’s mother.

A psychiatrist completed an examination this week of Mikese Morse and declared that he is too mentally ill to participate in court proceedings, Khadeeja Morse said.

"This comes as absolutely no surprise to us since Mikese’s severe mental illness is the most obvious thing about this case," she said.

Morse’s next court hearing is set for Thursday morning. It will be up to a judge to officially deem him incompetent.

Prosecutors have the option of requesting a second expert evaluation. Morse’s defense attorney, James Smith, said Wednesday he hopes they will agree to a finding of incompetency.

"I think the state at this point has recognized the severity of his mental issues," Smith said.

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If a judge decides he is incompetent to proceed, Morse will likely be sent to a state hospital to undergo treatment until doctors determine that he is mentally capable of understanding his legal situation and assisting in his own defense. After that, he would return to court and the prosecution would continue.

Morse, 30, is charged with first-degree murder in the June 24 death of Pedro Aguerreberry. The father was riding bicycles with his two sons, ages 3 and 8, on a New Tampa Boulevard bike path when Morse drove past in a Dodge Avenger, according to police. He made a U-turn, tore across a swath of grass, and plowed into the trio.

Aguerreberry died and his sons were injured. Morse kept driving and later abandoned his car, police said. He was arrested hours later at his parents’ home.

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Shortly before the fatal crash, Morse posted videos to his Instagram page, in which he rambled incoherently about "the devil" having power over him, and "energies changing" inside him. Days earlier, he had been committed to a mental health facility under the state’s Baker Act, but was released within a week, his parents said.

Michael and Khadeeja Morse spoke publicly in the days after their son’s arrest about his decade-long struggle with mental illness, their efforts to get him help, and what they called a failure of the state’s mental health system.

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While Mikese Morse has been in jail, his parents have sought to have him declared incapacitated and to be appointed as his legal guardians. The process involved three psychological evaluations unrelated to his criminal case.

Paperwork in the incapacity proceedings states that Morse suffers from schizophrenia, a severe mental illness marked by delusions, disorganized thinking and hallucinations.

A judge granted the parents full guardianship Tuesday, which means they are allowed to make legal decisions on their son’s behalf.

Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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