Men­tal sta­tus hear­ing fo­cus

Truong ac­cused in 2011 shoot­ing

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - TRACY M. NEAL

BEN­TONVILLE — A treat­ment team at Arkansas State Hos­pi­tal be­lieves a mur­der sus­pect is fit to be tried, but she hasn’t had a men­tal eval­u­a­tion be­cause a cer­ti­fied Viet­namese in­ter­preter is needed.

Huong Truong,

34, of Ben­tonville is charged with first-de­gree mur­der in the fa­tal shoot­ing of a man in 2011. She was found men­tally un­fit to stand trial and has been held at the State Hos­pi­tal since April 12, 2012.

Truong was re­turned to the Ben­ton County Jail last week. The State Hos­pi­tal sent court of­fi­cials a let­ter say­ing the treat­ment team be­lieves she is fit for trial. The let­ter also states a Viet­namese in­ter­preter is needed for a men­tal eval­u­a­tion, but the State Hos­pi­tal doesn’t have one.

Ben­ton County Cir­cuit Judge Robin Green said dur­ing a hear­ing Wed­nes­day that she never re­ceived the let­ter.

“I’m not con­fi­dent we are ready to pro­ceed to trial since no eval­u­a­tion took place,” Green said.

A Viet­namese in­ter­preter was used via tele­phone at Wed­nes­day’s hear­ing.

Green said she wanted to talk with the Arkansas Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices, which op­er­ates the hos­pi­tal, to hear how of­fi­cials there con­cluded Truong is fit. Jay Sax­ton, Truong’s at­tor­ney, also re­quested a hear­ing.

Car­rie Dobbs, deputy pros­e­cu­tor, said she had re­viewed the let­ter and dis­cussed it with Billy Bur­ris with the State Hos­pi­tal. Dobbs be­lieves Truong was im­prop­erly re­turned to Ben­ton County be­cause she is un­der a 180-day civil com­mit­ment out of Pu­laski County. The re­quest for

the com­mit­ment was filed March 10. The hos­pi­tal has pe­ti­tioned on six-month in­ter­vals for Truong to re­main there.

It can’t be de­ter­mined if Truong is fit to pro­ceed to trial with­out a men­tal eval­u­a­tion, said Dobbs, who wants her re­turned to the hos­pi­tal.

Truong spoke to the court for a few mo­ments in Viet­namese. Truong said she wanted to be re­leased, ac­cord­ing to the in­ter­preter.

Sax­ton said he’s wor­ried Truong will not re­ceive her med­i­ca­tion while in jail, and her men­tal con­di­tion will get

worse. Sax­ton said it will be bet­ter for Truong if she is taken back to the State Hos­pi­tal.

“I’m not crazy,” Truong said in English.

Green or­dered Truong be re­turned to the hos­pi­tal un­der the civil com­mit­ment.

Truong doesn’t be­lieve the man she’s ac­cused of killing is dead, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments filed in March in Pu­laski County. Truong in­sists she saw the man while she was in jail and doesn’t un­der­stand the

sever­ity of the charge against her, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

Truong would be a risk to her­self and oth­ers if re­leased from the hos­pi­tal, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments.

She is ac­cused of killing Minh Van Trinh in 2011. Hoa Le of Ben­tonville told po­lice she drove Trinh to Truong’s home on South­east Sev­enth Street. Trinh asked Le to drive him there af­ter he saw an on­line ad­ver­tise­ment for mas­sages, ac­cord­ing to a prob­a­ble cause af­fi­davit.

Le claims she waited in her ve­hi­cle and saw Trinh knock on the glass door on the west side of the res­i­dence. He then went to the front door, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments. Le said a woman she knew as “Huong” an­swered the door and be­gan speak­ing with Trinh, ac­cord­ing to the prob­a­ble cause af­fi­davit.

Truong left the door­way as Trinh re­mained stand­ing out­side the res­i­dence on the front step. Le said she heard a muf­fled noise and watched Trinh fall back off the porch onto the ground, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

Po­lice later found a Kel-tec .380-cal­iber semi­au­to­matic pis­tol and a shell cas­ing in the home.

Truong

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