CHALLIS — A judge ordered a man accused of killing a man nearly 40 years ago be committed to a state hospital as his competency comes into question.
According to court documents obtained by EastIdahoNews.com, last week, 86-year-old Walter James Mason was sent to State Hospital South in Blackfoot by Magistrate Judge James Barrett. Mason is charged with first-degree murder after he allegedly shot and killed Daniel Mason Woolley in the parking lot of the Sports Club bar in Challis. Another victim in the Sept. 22, 1980 shooting was shot in the shoulder.
Authorities looked for Mason for nearly four decades while he was living under the alias Walter James Allison in Eastland County, Texas, according to a post on Custer County Sheriff Stu Lumpkin’s Facebook page.
In the court order of commitment, Barrett suspended legal proceedings for Mason because of his lack of fitness, incapability to assist in his defense and lacking the capability to make informed decisions about treatment.
Under Idaho law, judges can commit defendants to the custody of the Department of Health and Welfare if they deem them unfit for trial. A defendant can be committed for up to 90 days before additional measures are taken. Committing a defendant like Mason to a facility like Blackfoot South is to provide treatment to restore competency before trial.
Mason’s next court appearance remains in the air until further mental competency determinations are made. He has yet to make an appearance for a preliminary hearing.