Judge: Man not competent for trial in 2017 killing of wife

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont judge has ruled that a man charged with killing his wife with a meat cleaver is not competent to stand trial.

The legal filing this week agreed with an evaluation by a court-appointed doctor that Aita Gurung cannot stand trial, for now, for the 2017 killing of his wife.

“The court finds that while Mr. Gurung (barely) has sufficient present ability to consult with his attorneys, he lacks either factual or rational understanding of the proceedings against him, due to his mental illness,” according to the ruling by Vermont Superior Court Judge Samuel Hoar Jr. “Thus, he is presently not competent to stand trial."

Gurung's defense attorney Sandra Lee said Friday that she would argue at a hearing later this month that her client should be hospitalized. Lee said Gurung suffered from what she describes as “severe psychotic disorder."

“I am relieved because I do feel a just result occurred with regard to where he needs to be because this now is an avenue for us to argue this man needs to be put back in the hospital," Lee said. He is currently jailed.

Lee said Gurung's condition improved during earlier hospitalizations, and it's possible he could become competent to stand trial at some point in the future.

Police allege that in October 2017 Gurung attacked and killed his wife, Yogeswari Khadka, 32, in Burlington and injured his mother-in-law hours after he had sought mental health treatment at a local hospital.

Earlier this year, Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George announced she was dropping the charges against Gurung because he was not competent to stand trial.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott asked Attorney General T.J. Donovan to review the case. In September, the attorney general's office filed first degree murder charges against Gurung, and he was transferred from a psychiatric facility to prison.

Donovan told MyNBC5 that competence should be determined by a jury.

"This was a horrific act of domestic violence, where she was murdered in the streets of Burlington," he said. “I believe Vermonters, through a jury system, deserve to hear that evidence and make the final decision.”