DA: Man found not guilty in father’s death by reason of insanity

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A 23-year-old man charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his father was found not guilty by reason of insanity last week.

Corey Eugene Roberts was charged with the death of his father, 52-year-old Christopher Roberts, at the family’s Night Hawk Drive home in Wilmington on May 2, 2013, according to a spokeswoman with the Wilmington Police Department. Christopher Roberts was found stabbed at the home at about 6:45 p.m., when he was taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center and later died.

Superior Court Judge Marvin K. Blount found Corey Roberts not guilty of first-degree murder by reason of insanity and ordered him to be committed to Central Regional Hospital in Butner, according to an Automatic Involuntary Commitment Order signed by Blount on July 20. The order was filed in New Hanover County Superior Court on July 23.

According to state law, if a presiding judge finds a defendant not guilty by reason of insanity, the defendant is automatically ordered to be involuntarily committed to a 24-hour State facility for treatment.

The judge’s ruling came after a three-day hearing, when the court heard from several experts in forensic psychiatry, as well as family and friends of the Roberts’ family, David said.

The hearing took place June 15-17 in New Hanover County Superior Court, according to a clerk of court.

In that hearing, “all of the experts agreed that the defendant suffered from a diagnosed mental illness at the time of the murder. But the State’s experts contended that the defendant had acted out of anger and not under the delusion of his mental condition at the time of the stabbing,” David said.

Nicole Wolf—a doctor and expert who testified at the June hearing—reported that the average length of a commitment for defendants under the terms of Corey Roberts’ case is more than 12 years. The length of stay is determined on an individual basis dependent on the condition of the patient and in accordance with state guidelines, David said.

The involuntary commitment is in effect a until Corey Roberts is found to no longer be a threat to himself or others, at which time a series of steps are initiated to determine if he can be released, David said. The length of time for his treatment is undetermined.

According to Assistant District Attorney Lillian Salcines Bright, these types of hearings are extremely rare in the state.

“Inter-familial homicide is always tragic,” David said. “The family did express their hopes that Corey Roberts would be placed in a hospital setting and that he continue to receive treatment for his mental illness rather than a term of imprisonment.”

David said the loss of Christopher Roberts was a loss to the local community.

“Just weeks before his death, Chris Roberts had participated in a local Summit on School Safety. Mr. Roberts was known as the champion of the local Watchdog Program, a school-based initiative that paired men who volunteered to mentor children in our schools with those in need of male role models,” David said. “The magnitude of what was lost by his death cannot be overstated. During the time that Mr. Roberts was involved with the program he had a profound effect on the young lives that he touched.”