Out­come of Dos Pa­los ‘sa­tanic’ killing may hinge on in­san­ity de­fense

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Front Page - BY VIKAAS SHANKER [email protected]­ced­sun­star.com

When Merced County deputies ar­rived at a trailer on the prop­erty of a Dos Pa­los res­i­dence on Oct. 11, 2017, they re­ported finding 37-year-old Melissa Bal cov­ered in blood near her dead mother.

Bal told po­lice she “sac­ri­ficed” her mother, 55-year-old Ly­dia Marie Bal, as part of a “sa­tanic prac­tice” by stab­bing her at least 20 times with an 8-inch kitchen knife, ac­cord­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­ports. Bal also self-re­ported her his­tory of men­tal ill­ness, drugs and al­co­hol to au­thor­i­ties.

But was Bal sane and sober when in­ves­ti­ga­tors believe she killed her mother?

The Dos Pa­los woman has pleaded not guilty by rea­son of in­san­ity. And the ques­tions about her men­tal state have de­layed her trial for more than a year.

Since Bal was or­dered to stand trial on charges of mur­der last March, attorneys in the case have been try­ing to de­ter­mine her men­tal com­pe­tency through a se­ries of med­i­cal re­ports.

“Cases in­volv­ing a (not guilty by in­san­ity de­fense) usu­ally take longer than oth­ers,” said lead prose­cu­tor Travis Colby, a Merced County deputy district at­tor­ney.

Two court-ap­pointed doc­tors have sub­mit­ted re­ports to the court af­ter eval­u­at­ing Bal, said Stephanie Jamieson, the Merced County deputy pub­lic de­fender ap­pointed to rep­re­sent her. Those med­i­cal re­ports are not

open to the pub­lic, and nei­ther Jamieson nor Colby would com­ment on the find­ings in the re­ports.

But the pros­e­cu­tion is wait­ing for re­sults of a third med­i­cal re­port re­quested by the Merced County District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, Colby said af­ter Bal’s pre-trial hear­ing Thurs­day.

Vis­it­ing Judge Josh M. Fredricks or­dered the case con­tin­ued to Jan. 24. Pros­e­cu­tors hope to have the re­sults of the med­i­cal re­port by then, Colby said.

If the case heads to trial, the jury would have to make two ver­dicts, attorneys said.

The first con­clu­sion would be whether Bal killed her mother. Af­ter that de­ter­mi­na­tion, the jury would de­ter­mine whether Bal was sane dur­ing the al­leged slay­ing.

If the jury de­cides she was men­tally com­pe­tent, she could face be­tween 25 years to life in prison, ac­cord­ing to attorneys. If found not guilty by rea­son of in­san­ity, Bal could face life in a state hos­pi­tal, with el­i­gi­bil­ity for re­lease once she has been re­stored to san­ity.

THAD­DEUS MILLER [email protected]­ced­sun­star.com

Melissa Anne Bal, 37, ap­pears in Merced County Su­pe­rior Court on Feb. 15, where she was found com­pe­tent enough to stand trial. She’s ac­cused of killing her mother, 55-year-old Ly­dia Marie Bal, in an al­leged “Sa­tanic sac­ri­fice” on Oct. 11 in­side a trailer in Dos Pa­los.

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