Arlington woman accused of murdering husband found competent for trial

Posted Monday, Nov. 04, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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A judge ruled that a woman accused of murdering her husband is competent to stand trial, clearing the way for jury selection Tuesday.

Colette Reyes, 54, has been in and out of state mental hospitals since November 2009, when Arlington police found her husband, Arthur Reyes, a popular professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, dead in his garage in the 1800 block of Lakeside Drive in Arlington.

Prosecutors took Reyes to court in January and accused her of faking or exaggerating her mental illness, and a jury agreed. Reyes has been awaiting trial in the Tarrant County jail since the jury’s decision on Jan. 10. Arthur Reyes, 45 at the time of his death, had instructed his attorney to draw up divorce papers which were filed the day after he died, according to court records.

Reyes spent some time in the Arlington jail after her husband’s death but later was taken to North Texas State Hospital in Vernon where she was placed in psychiatric care. Reyes was later released from the hospital and spent most of her time since her husband’s death free on bail.

Bailiffs escorted Reyes out of the courtroom on Monday because she was talking over witnesses during the competency hearing.

“I am the chosen one,” she said. “I will be sitting at his right hand. There are those who are ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Visiting Judge Elizabeth Berry cautioned Reyes that she would be removed from the courtroom if the interruptions did not stop. Despite the warning Reyes continued talking.

“I’m not ashamed of Jesus Christ,” said Reyes. “There are three of us in the room who love Jesus Christ, who praise His name and who glorify His name – Hallelujah.”

Reyes graduated from Polytechnic University of New York with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and had been enrolled in a nursing degree program at UTA, said Sean Colston, Tarrant County prosecutor.

Before making her ruling on competency, Berry told attorneys that no one had heard a “peep out of Reyes” since she was taken out of the courtroom and placed in a holding cell.

Wes Ball resigned as her attorney so he could testify Monday about paperwork from the Social Security Administration that showed Reyes had been suffering from mental illness since 1994. J. Warren St. John was appointed her new attorney.

Ball testified that whenever he would try to speak with Reyes about what happened on the night her husband died, she refused to talk about it, or became “hyper religious” or would speak as though her husband was not dead.

Psychologists testifying for the state said that while Reyes might be suffering from some underlying mental illness, her condition was not pronounced enough to keep her trial from going forward.

The prosecution’s psychological expert, Antoinette McGarrahan, said Reyes had no trouble negotiating out-of-state trips with bail officials or doing on-line banking, but when she came to her office for evaluation she could not remember her name or her two daughters’ names. On a psychological exam that measures whether a person is faking mental illness, Reyes scored a 17; scores above six indicate faking or an exaggeration of mental illness.

“I believe she has some mental illness, but she is exaggerating it so she will not have to go to trial,” McGarrahan testified. “Her behavior has been at its worst when there’s been an incentive. Either there was a social security payment or there’s been a murder trial.”

St. John said Reyes is not sophisticated enough to fool all the mental health professionals who awarded her with disability payments and kept her under psychological care for almost four years since her husband’s death.

“I think it would be a real tragedy to go forward with this trial,” St. John said. “She will not cooperate with me. She has not consulted with me. She doesn’t understand the proceedings against her. I think she has a real problem.”

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752 Twitter: @mitchmitchel3

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