The attorney for
the Michigan City man charged with the arson murder of his mother--who
perished in a blaze in her Ogden Dunes home in April 2015--intends to argue
that his client was insane at the time of the fire.
Frederick D. Fegely,
69, appeared before Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa on Monday, at
which time his attorney, Bob Harper, formally filed a notice of insanity
“The defendant, in
addition to his not guilty plea, wishes to have a not guilty by reason of
insanity also filed,” Harper stated in his filing.
Alexa duly granted
Harper’s request to appoint “qualified professionals to assess the
defendant’s sanity at the time of the alleged crime,” by naming three, two
of whom previously determined--on Oct. 21, 2016--that Fegely was incompetent
to stand trial.
determination last year, Fegely was committed to the Logansport State
Hospital for treatment, where he remained until March 27, when he was found
competent and returned to Porter County.
Prosecuting Attorney Cheryl Polarek told the Chesterton Tribune after
deadline on Monday, the competency finding means that Fegely understands the
charges against him and will be able to assist in his own defense. That
finding is altogether separate, however, from the question of whether he was
legally insane at the time of the fire.
Under Indiana Code
35-41-3-6, a “person is not responsible for having engaged in prohibited
conduct if, as a result of mental disease or defect, he was unable to
appreciate the wrongfulness of the conduct at the time of the offense.”
IC defines mental
disease or defect as a “severely abnormal mental condition that grossly and
demonstrably impairs a person’s perception, but the term does not include an
abnormality manifested only by repeated unlawful or antisocial conduct.”
In cases in which
an insanity defense is argued, juries have four options, under IC 35-36-2-3:
they may find the defendant guilty; not guilty; not responsible by reason of
insanity at the time of the crime; or guilty but mentally ill at the time of
Should Fegely be
found not responsible by reason of insanity, he would be committed to a
state hospital for treatment until such time as he’s deemed no longer
insane, and then released, Polarek said.
Under IC 35-36-2-5,
defendants found guilty but mentally ill are sentenced in the same manner as
those simply found guilty, that is, to the Department of Correction, where
they “shall be further evaluated and then treated in such a manner as is
Also on Monday,
Alexa scheduled Fegely’s trial to begin on Sept. 18, with pre-trial hearings
on June 30 and Aug. 18.
On the morning of
April 16, 2015, Wanda Maine Wunder, 94, was found deceased by firefighters
on the floor of her bedroom at 24 Diana Road in Ogden Dunes. An autopsy
later determined that Wunder died of smoke and soot inhalation but also
suffered thermal injuries.
According to the
probable cause affidavit filed by the ODPD, investigators found traces of an
accelerant--a “medium petroleum distillate,” a class of ignitable liquids
which includes charcoal starter, lamp oil, and paint thinner--on the pajamas
which Fegely was wearing at the time of the fire. The presence of an
accelerant was also found both inside and outside the window of the house’s
basement, where Fegely was staying at the time.
In an interview,
Fegely advised that he’d moved in with his mother to assist her. “He stated
that she was very particular about things and did not like his involvement
with various religious teachings, in which he was very interested,” the
affidavit stated. “He also acknowledged he was no longer receiving anything
under his mother’s will but believed his daughter would share her portion