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Lawyer: Sailor in stabbing case is not competent

NORFOLK, Va. (MCT) -- A sailor accused of attempted murder for stabbing another sailor at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center has been declared incompetent to stand trial, his lawyer said Thursday.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Wilbur Harwell was charged on July 24 with attempted murder and aggravated assault. He is accused of attacking Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Powell with a knife in the barracks on June 6.

Powell survived the assault.

Motions hearings in the court-martial case have been repeatedly delayed. Harwell's lawyer, Greg McCormack, said Thursday that his client has undergone a psychiatric evaluation at his request, and the report submitted said he is not competent to stand trial.

Harwell will now undergo treatment at a federal mental health facility to try to restore his competency to stand trial, McCormack said. Until then, he said, the court proceedings will be on hold.

The Navy originally reported that Harwell and Powell were assigned to different units at the medical center, but an investigation by The Virginian-Pilot revealed that both were temporarily assigned to a psychiatric unit, known as the Continuity of Psychiatric Care program, that treats sailors suffering from severe mental illness.

A sailor who knew Harwell told The Pilot he was frustrated with how long he was housed there while awaiting a medical discharge.

On the morning of June 6, both men were in the barracks when Powell stumbled outside and collapsed. He had been stabbed eight times. Harwell fled the base and was arrested in Virginia Beach after a nine-hour manhunt, while the medical center was on lockdown.

Harwell originally faced federal charges of assault with intent to commit murder and assault with a dangerous weapon, but the charges were dismissed during a court hearing in Norfolk on June 12.

dianna.cahn@pilotonline.com

(c) 2014 The Virginian-Pilot. Distributed by MCT Information Services

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