Charlotte man facing death penalty for brutal killings found competent to stand trial

Charlotte man facing death penalty for brutal killings found competent to stand trial

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Vurnel Smith Jr is one of the rare defendants in Mecklenburg County facing the death penalty.

The case started in 2017 when police say Smith went to his wife's house, knocked her unconscious, and held her against her will for days.

Investigators say Smith then killed his wife’s parents. Jacqueline Gordon-White’s body was found in the house. Rufus Gordon’s body was in the trunk of a car that Smith’s wife used to get away.

Police say his wife drove to the hospital and didn't know her father's body was in the trunk.

Smith went on the run for days but was eventually caught.

The question was did Smith understand what was happening? Did he understand the charges against him?

Thursday afternoon, a judge in Mecklenburg County revealed what mental health professionals concluded about Smith’s competency.

“The defendant discussed the criminal case in a rational and organized manner. He demonstrated an appreciation of the adversarial nature of the court proceedings by describing his charges and serious acknowledgment of the possibility of the death penalty. He also knew the allegations against him" the judge read.

Doctors determined Smith is fully aware of what happens in court proceedings and what his defense attorney is supposed to do.

Doctors wrote that “the defendant appears to understand the role of his attorneys. He did not report any major concerns and the descriptions of his attorneys did not contain any delusional elements. The defendant was cooperative and respectful during evaluation.”

Smith’s defense attorneys told the court that “at this point we don't have any evidence of our own to present as to the issue of capacity."

The defense pointed out that mental health is fluid and it’s possible they could come back at a later date to request an evaluation.

The judge then told the court his decision.

“Based upon the finding of the facts above the court concludes that as a matter of law the defendant is capable of proceeding in this matter" said the judge.

The death penalty case against Smith will go forward.

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