While awaiting the start of what was supposed to have been a hearing Tuesday to determine her mental competency to stand trial, murder suspect Jessica Groves sat silent, wearing handcuffs and leg restraints, continuously tapping her right heel. Her gaze seemed locked unmoving on a far corner of the courtroom.
Groves began to cry when defense attorney Robert Sratton entered the courtroom after meeting behind closed doors with prosecutors and Scioto County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Kuhn.
Even prior to the hearing, county Prosecutor Shane Tieman reported a court-appointed criminal psychologist had found Groves competent to stand trial in the aggravated murder case involving her infant son, Dylan.
During the subsequent hearing presided over by Kuhn, Stratton stipulated to the findings of the psychiatrist and on behalf of his client, withdrew her plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Stratton instead entered a standard plea of not guilty to the murder charge against Groves, as well as charges of receiving stolen property.
The latter charges relate to items law enforcement allegedly found at the home of Jessica Groves and husband Daniel Groves, also charged with aggravated murder and receiving stolen property.
Kuhn specifically stated according to the psychiatric evaluation she undertook, Jessica Groves is mentally capable of understanding the charges and court proceedings against her, as well as take an active part in her own defense.
According to a Google search, under Ohio law, 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.”
Kuhn entered the results of Jessica Groves’ psychiatric evaluation as an exhibit in the case but placed that evidence under seal, meaning it is not viewable by the public or media.
Prosecutors are treating Daniel and Jessica Groves as co-defendants in regard to all of the charges against the couple. Kuhn initially scheduled a four-day jury trial beginning Oct. 15. After a closed-door conference between Kuhn and attorneys for both sides, Tieman said a five-day jury trial now is set for Jan. 6, 2020.
Speaking to the Daily Times, Tieman later said postponement of the trial resulted from a defense motion for more time to evaluate scientific evidence and other discovery in the case. He also later added a pretrial set for Friday is canceled. According to Tieman, the court did not immediately set a new date for that hearing, though he expects it to happen sometime in November.
By now, plenty of media, including the Daily Times, have related the supposed 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 reunification.
Officials still have not made public any results, including a cause of death, of an autopsy completed on the body of Dylan Groves, who sheriff’s officials say they found June 12 at the bottom of a well in Otway near the Groves’ home. The coroner’s office did make public 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 have given 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, 2019.
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.
In a related development, according to the Scioto County Board of Commissioners, local professional baseball hero Al Oliver has resigned his long-standing position as chair of the embattled Scioto County Children Services Board Of Directors.
Oliver did not return a phone call requesting comment.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.