An East Moline man accused of the 2017 fatal shooting of his grandfather on Monday was ruled unfit to participate in the proceedings against him.
Robert E. Neal Sr., 69, of East Moline, was shot around 9:30 p.m. Nov. 17, 2017, in the 200 block of 19th Street, according to East Moline Police. Roman Knox, 25, of East Moline, was arrested shortly after the shooting, allegedly with blood on him and carrying a gun as he left the home he shared with his grandfather.
Knox faces a charge of first-degree murder.
Andrew Larson, Knox's attorney, had doubts Monday as to his client's ability to aid in his own defense, Assistant Rock Island County State’s Attorney Heidi Weller told Rock Island County Judge Frank Fuhr.
Dr. Kirk Witherspoon, a Moline-based clinical psychologist, has interviewed Knox and deemed him unfit. Witherspoon's report was accepted by both Weller and Larson.
"I find that Mr. Knox is unfit at this time," Fuhr ruled. He said Knox was likely to regain fitness with treatment through the Illinois Department of Human Services.
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This is the second time Knox's fitness has been questioned. In December 2017, he was found fit after an evaluation by Witherspoon.
Also in December 2017, Knox had a preliminary hearing in which prosecutors presented an extensive timeline they contend details events related to the shooting.
Preliminary hearings are an opportunity for a judge to review a case and determine whether evidence is strong enough to continue. The threshold is not considered high. A defendant can waive the hearing, which means the prosecution's outline is not challenged by the defense. Doing so is not considered an admission of guilt.
Knox elected to have the hearing and the outline was presented by East Moline Police Department Sgt. Matt Shattuck, a detective. According to the outline:
- Knox was supposed to work Nov. 17, 2017, but did not show up or call his employer.
- Around 1:30 p.m., Knox allegedly bought beer at a gas station near his home and was recognized by the clerk there. Shattuck said Knox again bought beer there at about 7:15 p.m. A test performed after Knox's arrest indicated he had a blood alcohol level of .25.
- At about 9:10 p.m., Knox and Neal were heard quarreling near the home, according to a man who knew both men. The man told police he heard Knox say he was going to get a gun.
- Around 9:30 p.m, police received a 911 call about a battery in the 200 block of 19th Street where a man was standing over another person on the ground. The person standing appeared to be beating the prone person, who was offering no resistance. The caller, a woman, told police she stopped to intervene, then realized the attacker was striking the victim with the butt end of a rifle or shotgun. Fearing for her safety, she drove away and called police. Shattuck said she later identified Knox's photo.
- Other 911 calls from the area came around the same time. Callers told dispatchers they'd heard a gunshot or loud boom.
- Also at about 9:30 p.m., the gas station clerk heard a large boom. Shattuck said the clerk looked up the street and saw a man standing on the side of the road, apparently swinging something toward the ground. She told police she recognized the man as Knox.
- When police arrived, they found Neal on the ground by the side of the road at 252 19th St. A shotgun was on his body. He had a gunshot wound in his chest and no pulse. He was later pronounced dead after arriving at Genesis Medical Center, Silvis. Preliminary results of an autopsy indicated a fatal gunshot to the chest.
- East Moline Police were joined in a search for the gunman by officers from Moline, Silvis, the Rock Island County Sheriff's Office and the Illinois State Police.
- Witnesses pointed them northeast, leading an East Moline officer and a county deputy to the area in front of the residence shared by Neal and Knox at 107 21st St. As the two stood on the street, a man with blood on his clothes came out of the home carrying a shotgun. The man was arrested without further incident. Shattuck said the man arrested was Knox.
- Blood was visible in the house from outside. Police did a search for other people and found none before backing out and awaiting a search warrant.
- A deputy talking to Knox as he sat in the back of a police vehicle asked if anyone was in the home or hurt. Knox told the deputy he was dying, needed help and intended to sue. Knox later allegedly said the murder weapon was in the house. An examination at the hospital showed Knox had injuries to his hand.
- A search of the home found blood in a number of areas, including on the floor, boxes for shotgun shells and the broken glass door of a gun cabinet in which police found other firearms.