Judge rules murder suspect competent
KINGMAN — After three hearings, a Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that a Meadview man is competent to stand trial on murder charges.
Victor Steven Empie, 62, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and attempted arson of an occupied structure. He is being held in county jail on a $1 million bond.
Deputy Mohave County Attorney Bob Moon played a taped phone call between Empie and a friend. Empie asked her to transfer mail to her post office box, considered giving her the power of attorney and even asked her to subscribe to a magazine for him.
Moon argued that Empie understood the phone calls were recorded and that he knew the rules of the jail. Moon said Empie was trying to conceal his assets and that he understands court proceedings.
Empie’s attorney, Ira Shiflett, argued that a Rule 11 mental health exam isn’t a test of intelligence. His client is unable to assist in his defense, Shiflett said.
He said Empie never discussed the case in the jailhouse phone calls. He can handle financial issues like transferring a truck title but doesn’t understand what a fair trial is or the aspects of the case, Shiflett argued.
Superior Court Commissioner Billy Sipe Jr. ruled that Empie is paranoid about his ex-wife and others, believing she was trying to kill him. He also has a distrust of attorneys, police, jurors and the judge and is also fixated on terrorists.
However, the judge found that Empie was lucid and coherent in conducting business on the phone calls and in well-written letters to the judge. Sipe ruled that Empie was clearly competent to stand trial.
Sipe set Empie’s next hearing for April 10.
At the first hearing, two psychologists gave conflicting testimony on whether Empie was mentally competent to stand trial. One psychologist testified that Empie was not competent; the other testified that Empie was competent, showing no signs of delusion in the second of two evaluations.
In the second Rule 11 hearing, Moon played a number of taped phone calls between Empie and several friends, including one conversation about the transfer of title to his trailer and truck and the transfer of money into bank accounts.
Empie was arrested April 8, 2016, after allegedly killing his neighbor, John Hewett Payne, 66, after a fight in Meadview. Empie reportedly crashed his truck into Payne’s recreational vehicle, knocking the trailer off its jacks, according to the sheriff’s office.
Payne and his wife woke from the noise of Empie’s truck crashing into their home on Gladiola Drive. As Payne opened his door, Empie allegedly shot Payne in the abdomen killing him, MCSO reported.