Judge rules accused killer mentally ready for trial

Michael Allen Tharp is led to a courtroom for pretrial hearing in this August 11, 2016 photo.
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Dothan (WTVY)-- A Houston County Circuit Judge ruled that a man accused of capital murder and facing the death penalty is mentally competent to stand trial.

Dr. Amber Simpler, clinic psychologist at a state mental facility, testified during a hearing Tuesday it is her opinion that Michael Allen Tharp is competent.

Judge Kevin Moulton agrees writing in his order “After a hearing to determine the defendant's competency to stand trial and the Court having considered the testimony presented at said hearing, as well as the exhibits admitted at said hearing, the Court finds that the defendant is competent to stand trial.”

Defense attorneys David Hogg and Aaron Gartlin argued Tharp, 55, suffers from a history of emotional and mental problems and a history of drug abuse.

Tharp was arrested in 2012 for shooting his stepfather, 68-year old Joseph Bernard Hendley, to death at the victim’s home in Cowarts, a town east of Dothan in Houston County. During an earlier hearing, he pleaded not guilty by reason of mental defect.

Trial for Tharp is set December 4th. If convicted of capital murder, a jury will recommend punishment of death by execution or life in prison without the possibility of parole