On July 11, Jessica Groves, 39, through her attorney, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity in relation to the death of her infant son, Dylan Groves.
On July 16, Scioto County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Kuhn signed an order directing an evaluation of the defendant’s sanity at the time of the offense and her competency to stand trial.
In the meantime, the court required the defendant enter a written plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Jessica Groves must complete that filing no later than seven days from the day of the order, which makes the deadline July 23.
According to the Daily Times reading of Ohio Revised Code, the court now must hold a special hearing to determine the defendant’s sanity or competency to stand trial. As the court ordered a mental evaluation of the defendant, the law mandates a hearing within 10 days after the filing with the court of the evaluation.
Earlier this year, in the case against now convicted murderer Nathan Stiltner, a court spokesperson said it usually takes about 30 days following a mental evaluation for a determination to reach the court. In Stiltner’s case, his mental evaluation was done by a psychologist in Cincinnati.
According to a Google search, in Ohio, competency means “the mental ability to stand trial. A person is mentally incompetent to stand trial if he or she is unable to understand the character and consequences of the proceedings against him or her or is unable properly to assist in his or her defense.”
Should Jessica Groves be found incompetent to stand trial, that does not mean she will never have her day in court.
Ohio law reads if a judge deems a defendant incompetent, but there is a probability he or she could become competent, the court must order that person to undergo treatment. If the court is unable to determine whether the defendant could become competent to stand trial, the court must order continued evaluations for up to four months. The law also makes allowances for at least the temporary commitment of an incompetent defendant.
Being deemed incompetent to stand trial is not the same as being found not guilty by reason of insanity. According to Ohio Revised Code, a person is not guilty by reason of insanity only if the person proves at the time of the commission of the offense, the person did not know, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, the wrongfulness of the person’s acts.
Scioto County Prosecutor Shane Tieman was in court Monday afternoon and unavailable for comment for this story. Jessica Groves’ court-appointed attorney, Portsmouth’s Shawn Stratton, did not return phone calls requesting comment.
Jessica Groves and husband Daniel Groves, 42, are co-defendants in the case involving the death of their son. The Daily Times previously reported both were due in court July 25 for a pretrial hearing in their joint case. That hearing currently is not listed on the website of the Court of Common Pleas. Instead, the website notes a date of Aug. 1 as a date for pretrial for both defendants.
A final pretrial still is set for Sept. 27, with a four-day jury trial scheduled to begin Oct. 15 as previously announced. It is unclear how Jessica Groves’ insanity plea may affect the court schedule. The Common Pleas’ website lists the same court dates for Daniel Groves as for Jessica Groves. Both previously entered pleas of not guilty to all counts against them, including one count each of aggravated murder.
Both suspects formally waived their rights to a speedy trial and both suspects also are in the Scioto County Jail with no chance of bail.
By now, plenty of media, including the Daily Times, have related the alleged story of Dylan’s short life.
After allegedly being born with illicit drugs in his system, Scioto County Children Services initially took custody of the child. However, officials allowed Daniel Groves custody of his son after, according to Children Services, he met all legal requirements for family unification.
According to the coroner’s office, a complete autopsy of the infant, sheriff’s officials say they found June 5 at the bottom of a well in Otway, won’t be available for at least another few weeks. However, the coroner’s office allowed the Daily Times a look at a preliminary autopsy report dated June 13 and completed by the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office.
The autopsy report refers to “a decomposed approximately two-month-old infant recovered from a 30 foot well.”
Most media reports give Dylan’s age as six months. However, that appears to be the age Dylan would have been at the time authorities discovered his body.
Dylan’s date of birth was Jan. 10.
According to the preliminary autopsy, someone wrapped Dylan’s body “in numerous plastic bags,” sealed with duct tape and “placed in crates,” bound by chains, padlocks, zip ties and metal wires.
Initially, both Daniel and Jessica Groves faced a total of 11 criminal counts. According to the court website, one count of interfering with custody filed against each of the suspects was dismissed at the request of Tieman’s office. The reason for that dismissal is not given.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370- 0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.