A Rock Island man charged in the deaths of his grandmother and uncle in May was found unfit for trial Tuesday.
John P. Conwell, 39, will be remanded to the Illinois Department of Human Services for treatment to see if he can attain fitness within one year, Judge Frank Fuhr ruled during a short hearing at the Rock Island County Justice Center.
A defendant can be found unfit for trial if, because of a mental or physical condition, he or she is unable to understand the nature and purpose of the proceedings and is unable to assist in his or her defense.
The judge’s ruling essentially halts the proceedings against Conwell, who is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Eleanor "Petty" and Steve Conwell, 90 and 69, respectively.
Conwell, dressed in a red T-shirt and jeans, denied that he had a “mental health problem” and said, “I am an innocent man, and I want these charges dropped immediately.”
“I’m the ruler of Russia, I’m not even supposed to be here,” Conwell yelled as he was led out of the courtroom by deputies. “You guys are murderers!”
Rock Island County State’s Attorney John McGehee said after the hearing that Conwell will be transported to the Chester Mental Health Center, a maximum-security forensic mental health facility, in Chester, Illinois.
If a judge determines there is no reasonable probability that Conwell can attain fitness within one year, the case could proceed to a discharge hearing.
At that hearing, a judge will hear evidence and issue a finding of not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity or “not not guilty,” which is similar to a guilty verdict at a criminal trial.
A status hearing is set for next month.
Police were called at 7:54 p.m. May 14 to the 1200 block of 29th Street for a welfare check and found the bodies of the Conwells.
Prosecutors claim in charging documents that John Conwell "knowingly and without justification" struck Eleanor and Steve Conwell in the head and cut their throats.
John Conwell was arrested a day later in Davenport.