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Crookston man ruled mentally competent to stand trial on charge of killing his father

CROOKSTON -- A 28-year-old man accused of killing his father in February was ruled mentally competent to stand trial Monday.

Jacob Abel of Crookston made his second appearance in District Court in Crookston after completing a court-ordered psychological examination. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit and wearing thick-rimmed glasses, he was more subdued than during his initial court appearance, when his outburst interrupted the proceedings.

His trial had been suspended for more than two months while the exam and report were completed.

But Monday morning, Judge Donald Aandal announced that Abel could continue with trial and set a hearing for April 30, during which Abel will again be advised of the charges against him and his rights and may enter a plea.

Psych exam

The report, in essence, affirmed that Abel is competent to both understand his rights, the charges and potential penalties, and be able to assist in his defense.

Defined by Minnesota state law as Rule 20.01, the report includes a diagnosis of the defendant's medical condition and an opinion as to whether the defendant is mentally ill.

Abel allegedly stabbed his father, Jerome Abel, to death Feb. 5 in a Crookston apartment they shared. The criminal complaint states that Abel stabbed his father at least 24 times, leaving large portions of the apartment and Abel himself covered with blood.

His court-appointed attorney, Michael Lee LaCoursiere, informed the court Monday of his plan to seek another psychological examination for Abel, which is necessary if LaCoursiere plans on using Abel's mental state as part of his defense.

The Rule 20.02 exam includes a diagnosis and an opinion on whether mental illness caused the defendant to not know the difference between right and wrong.

It may also include other requested opinions on the diagnosis and a factual basis for both the diagnosis and any related opinions.

New charge

Abel has been charged with both first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree murder without premeditation. The first charge was handed down by a grand jury as designated by Minnesota law.

First-degree murder is punishable by up to life in prison without parole. Second-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.

Also Monday, Abel appeared in court on the charge of fourth-degree assault on a correctional officer in connection with an incident that took place shortly after he was initially jailed on the murder charges.

Prosecutor Scott Allen Buhler did not ask for any changes in release conditions for Abel under the new charge. Abel is currently being held on $500,000 bail.

Both Buhler and LaCoursiere declined to comment on the case.