Knife-wielding accused faces trial

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat /

A judge ruled Friday that a man accused of entering a Valley Springs home May 6 with a knife trying to break into a pregnant woman's locked bedroom is mentally competent to stand trial.

Phillip Anthony Romero, 46, of Campo Seco, has been charged with threatening someone with a knife, two counts of felony vandalism, criminal trespassing and public drunkenness in relation to the incident.

Criminal proceedings, including a trial that was scheduled to begin Sept. 26 in Calaveras County Superior Court, were suspended last month while two Stockton psychiatrists evaluated Romero's fitness to aid in his own defense.

Visiting Judge Thomas Smith noted in a hearing Friday that Dr. Kent Rogerson's report stated that Romero is competent while Dr. Gary Cavanaugh opined that Romero is "marginally competent."

Prosecutors and defense attorney Cyril Ash agreed to waive the right to a jury trial to determine Romero's ability to stand trial and permit Smith to make the ruling.

"Although there is a slight difference in the opinions of the doctors, I find the preponderance of the evidence is that Mr. Romero is competent to stand trial," Smith said.

"He understands the roles of the attorneys" and can assist in his own defense, the judge said.

Smith reinstated the suspended proceedings and set a hearing for 9 a.m. today to set a new trial date in the case.

According to court documents, a St. Andrews Road woman heard an exterior window being broken, ran into her bedroom and locked herself in. Romero entered and walked upstairs, and banged on her bedroom door, records state.

Police said he then got on top of the roof holding a knife. He eventually dropped the weapon, after repeated demands from deputies below, and yelled "they are going to kill me, help me," before jumping from the second-story roof and being apprehended, according to witness testimony.

Contact Sean Janssen at sjanssen@uniondemocrat.com or 890-7741.

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