Trial in murder and burning of body delayed again

By Lance Benzel Updated: December 21, 2013 at 9:42 pm • Published: December 20, 2013 | 7:30 pm

Prosecutors on Friday decried yet another delay in the case of a 23-year-old man whose bizarre courtroom antics have kept him from being tried in a grisly murder.

"This case just keeps going on and on," lead prosecutor Margaret Vellar complained before a judge granted a defense request for another competency review for Marcus Allen Smith, accused of strangling an 87-year-old woman and setting her body on fire.

Two years after Smith's arrest, no trial date has been set - the legacy of continuing questions over Smith's mental health in the wake of repeated courtroom outbursts including spitting, swearing at the judge and kicking a prosecutor's chair.

Smith's attorney, Joshua Tolini, denied that anything but concern over Smith's mental health motivated the latest request for further psychiatric testing.

Smith's mental illness predates the November 2011 slaying of Katheryn "Kit" Grazioli, Tolini said, adding that his client's condition has worsened during more than three years spent in solitary confinement at the El Paso County jail.

Smith's most recent evaluation - at least his sixth-was completed in October by state mental health workers after he showed up in court with fecal matter in his hair.

Results of the testing weren't made public. Previous evaluations found that Smith exhibits antisocial personality disorder and found he was exaggerating his symptoms.

Fourth Judicial District Judge Barbara L. Hughes ruled Friday to allow a defense expert to conduct in independent review, citing a provision in the law that gives defendants that right.

The issue led the judge to postpone a preliminary hearing on new charges Smith picked up in October - allegedly after biting a jail guard.

In weighing a defendant's competency, a judge must determine whether Smith understands the nature of the proceedings against him.

If found incompetent, Smith would be treated at the Colorado State Mental Health Institute in Pueblo and his prosecution would be held in abeyance until his condition improves.

Smith, a convicted burglar, was on probation when police say he slipped into Grazioli's home through a bedroom window, strangled her inside, then drove her body to a popular trailhead west of Colorado Springs and set fire to it.

Police say he had the woman's stolen credit cards in his pockets when he was arrested and that his fingerprints were found on her bedroom window and on her stolen car.

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