CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — A judge ruled Wednesday afternoon that Wildwood resident Alberto Martinez, charged with first-degree murder in the death of Vincent DeSario, is competent to stand trial.
The ruling comes nearly three years after Martinez allegedly hit DeSario, a 19-year-old honors student from Edison, Middlesex County, in the head with a baseball bat.
DeSario and his friends were staying in Wildwood on May 10, 2010, while participating in a community college golf tournament at the Cape May National Golf Club in Lower Township.
He was to have graduated from Middlesex County College on May 20, 2010.
On May 10, at about 7:50 p.m., DeSario and a group of friends were walking on the 3300 block of Atlantic Avenue when one of them tripped and they began to laugh.
Police said Martinez believed they were laughing at him, and he then grabbed a wooden baseball bat and hit DeSario with it.
DeSario died 14 days later at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus, in Atlantic City.
Martinez was indicted on a first-degree murder charge in June 2010, but the case has languished as the court was charged with determining whether Martinez was competent to stand trial.
During a hearing Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten heard testimony from Dr. Bonard Moises, the psychiatrist who has been treating Martinez since June 2012.
DeSario’s parents and other family members listened as Moises told the judge Martinez suffers from schizophrenia and is being treated with anti-psychotic medication and an anti-depressant.
First Assistant Prosecutor Rob Johnson asked Moises about his discussions with Martinez about his legal case.
Moises said Martinez understands the role of the judge, jury, prosecutor and defense attorney, and that he understands the charges against him.
Moises said Martinez also has expressed a desire to remain in a psychiatric facility rather than return to jail. But Moises also said Martinez remains delusional and at times has auditory and visual hallucinations.
Moises said Martinez believes invisible people are messing with his mind and that “there are entities that have taken pieces of his brain.”
He said Martinez also tried to hang himself.
Defense attorney Stephen Patrick challenged the competency finding by Moises, noting that the continued delusions and hallucinations would make it difficult for him to represent Martinez and difficult for Martinez to actively participate in his own defense.
He said that while Martinez has told police he had a bat, he has told Moises he did not. Patrick asked what he should believe.
But while Martinez continues to have “delusional thinking,” Moises said that did not mean Martinez cannot comprehend certain things.
Batten accepted Moises finding and ruled that Martinez is competent to stand trial.
The case will return to court next month for an evidential hearing. No trial date has been set.
Contact Trudi Gilfillian: 609-463-6716 TGilfillian@pressofac.com