IM this article to a friend!

February 7, 2003

Man once declared incompetent is re-arrested in killing

From: Virginian Pilot, VA - 07 Feb 2003

By AMY JETER, The Virginian-Pilot
© February 7, 2003

PORTSMOUTH -- A man who had been declared incompetent to stand trial for murder and later was released from a state psychiatric hospital was arrested late Thursday after being indicted again in connection with the 1995 slaying.

Rodney L. Sink, 29, was arrested on charges of murder and robbery. He had originally been charged with capital murder and robbery seven years ago.

Police said at the time of the original charges that they had found Sink covered in blood at a 7-Eleven store in the Highland Biltmore neighborhood. Sink led them to the body of 60-year-old Cecil Meeks, who had been beaten to death, according to court records.

Charges against him were dismissed by a Portsmouth Circuit Court judge in 2000 after a mental health professional at Western State Hospital said Sink couldn't be brought to the point where he could understand court proceedings and help lawyers prepare his defense, court records show. While Sink is deaf and mute, court records don't specifically indicate Sink's mental problems.

Virginia law requires that someone who has been declared incompetent be released from legal custody no later than five years from the date of his or her arrest for capital murder.

Sink was civilly committed at Western State in Staunton in 2000, but he was released last fall after officials determined that he was able to function in society and was no longer a risk to himself or others.

Since then, police and prosecutors have been working to bring him to trial for Meeks' slaying.

Sink was arrested at about 10 p.m. at his residence in the 200 block of Queen St. in Hampton, authorities said.

``We will use every avenue we can to prosecute a guilty culprit,'' Portsmouth Commonwealth's Attorney Earle C. Mobley said after the new indictment. ``We don't want to have a murderer walking around on our streets because we haven't taken the effort to prosecute him.''

Mobley said the way the court had disposed of the case allowed charges to be brought again.

For Garland Meeks, Cecil's brother, the new indictment was bittersweet.

``I'm just really excited that something has happened,'' Meeks, 60, said. ``But I don't know how we'll go through it all again.''

William R. Brown, Sink's attorney in the original case, said re-indicting someone who had been declared incompetent seems inconsistent with the law.

``It makes no sense to me to be able to turn right around . . . and go back to the grand jury and have the person detained another five years,'' Brown said. ``Something is just not right if they can just continue this process over and over and over again.''

Police arrested Sink in October 1995, after encountering him at a 7-Eleven in the 3500 block of Deep Creek Blvd. Sink had blood on his face and arms, according to court records. He indicated that someone had taken $30 from him, and gestured to officers that he would show them who did it, court records show.

According to the records, he took the officers to a Wright Avenue apartment, where Meeks' body was found on the bed, his face smashed. A broken, bloody lamp was beside him, the records show, and the bed, walls and drapes were covered with blood.

At the detective bureau, Sink tried to communicate, according to police reports. He pointed at himself, made a fist and punched his hand, the reports said, and he indicated to his mother that his actions were in self-defense.

In November 1996, Sink's attorneys requested that he have a mental evaluation, and Sink was found incompetent. He remained at Western State Hospital between March 1997 and September 2000, while mental health professionals tried to restore him to competency.

Restoration is usually done by controlling someone's mental illness with medication or by teaching someone with mental disabilities about the court process, said James J. Morris, an official with the state's Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services.

In Sink's case, officials said, it didn't work. He was declared ``unrestorably incompetent,'' his case was dismissed and he was committed to the state hospital for training and treatment.

In the fall, Garland Meeks got a call from the commonwealth's attorney's office notifying him that Sink had been released from the state hospital.

Cecil Meeks' death had hit his seven siblings hard. Cecil, the oldest, was a quiet, slight man who had retired from the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. He loved to garden.

``You could give him a flower, and it was like giving him a diamond,'' Garland Meeks said.

Cecil Meeks was divorced, with two sons. Garland was never sure how his brother knew Sink -- or if he knew him.

Garland Meeks expected Sink to be freed eventually. He said he was told that Sink had been released to a transitional home on the Peninsula.

Although they wouldn't affect Sink's case, legislators have proposed changes to the law that allowed him to return to society.

The Senate unanimously passed a measure this week allowing the state to indefinitely hold an unrestorably incompetent defendant charged with capital murder. Under the bill, the defendant could be ordered to continue receiving treatment and to undergo competency hearings every six months.

Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, said the bill tightens the current state law and provides another tool for the courts to deal with violent, mentally ill defendants.

The bill, SB1160, will be considered by the House of Delegates this month and has bipartisan support. Stolle said it's likely to pass.

The proposal was spurred by the slaying of 8-year-old Kevin Shifflett of Alexandria. Gregory D. Murphy, who has a history of mental illness, is accused of stabbing Kevin to death in April 2000.

Staff writer Louis Hansen contributed to this report. Reach Amy Jeter at or 446-2793.

Copyright 1993-2003, /