Man in Richland Hills pentagram case ruled incompetent to stand trial

A Richland Hills man accused of carving a pentagram into his young son’s back has been ordered to a state hospital in Kerrville for a year after he was found incompetent to stand trial.

Doctors determined that Brent Bartel, 40, is a paranoid schizophrenic, and he was ordered last week to receive treatment at Kerrville State Hospital for at least a year, according to Tarrant County court documents obtained Thursday by the Star-Telegram.

A judge ruled last week that he was incompetent for trial.

Bartel is accused of using a box cutter to carve the pentagram into his then-6-year-old son’s back in December 2012 while at the family’s Richland Hills home.

When Richland Hills police arrived, they found blood, apparently from the child’s wounds, smeared on the sides and the top of the home’s door frame. Bartel was arrested and his son was rushed to a hospital.

Bartel has been found incompetent by doctors two other times since his arrest. In November, after he was first found incompetent, he was sent to the North Texas State Hospital in Vernon for treatment.

Upon his arrival there, Bartel refused to take psychoactive medications as prescribed until a court order was obtained Nov. 19, according to the court documents.

‘Spiritual warfare’

In interviews with doctors in February, Bartel made these statements:

“There’s a lot of spiritual warfare going on”; “I was hearing voices coming through the television, back when I was on block 56”; “When I leave here, I’ll fast and eat only rabbit pellets for 40 days”; “Devil makes sounds that don’t bounce”; “Got a hernia due to my computer”; and “Electromagnetic pulse can detonate people.”

One of his most chilling statements came Feb. 11, when he said, “Dreams suggest not to live with my son,” according to the documents.

In an evaluation in January, Dr. Timothy Nyberg noted that Bartel continued making bizarre religious assertions — such as that Catholics were “part of the menu” — and that he was fasting and refusing food for idiosyncratic reasons.

He acknowledged that he attempted suicide in 2012 after his microwave malfunctioned, according to court documents.

Bartel was unable to discuss the facts of his criminal case without incorporating bizarre religious ideas and other evidence of psychotic delusions, the documents say.

‘It’s a holy day’

Police were summoned to the Bartel home about 12:10 a.m. on Dec. 12, 2012, after Bartel called 911. A neighbor also called police after the child’s mother fled to the neighbor’s home.

In the 911 call, Bartel told the Richland Hills dispatcher, “I inscribed a pentagram on my son.”

Authorities said Bartel had used a box cutter to carve the pentagram, a religious symbol featuring a five-pointed star.

Bartel also told the dispatcher that “I shed some innocent blood.”

Asked why he did it, Bartel replied, “It’s a holy day.”

His mother, in a telephone interview from Portland, Ore., that month, said her son had no history of mental illness but had recently been under tremendous stress.

“Brent is not a demon,” Lori Ponce said. “He is loving. He loves that boy. Something happened. Don’t paint him as some crazy man. No, that’s not him.”

His stepfather said Bartel had been searching for his spirituality.

“He is deep into the Old Testament,” John Ponce said in the phone interview.

“There’s a possibility with all of this pain and marital strife and such, he may have resorted to Old Testament references and then convoluted them. If you know about the Old Testament, there’s the Passover marks on the door frame done with a sacrificial lamb, definitely not sacrificial children.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.