State District Judge Paul White on Thursday ordered 120 days of treatment in a maximum-security mental health facility for the woman accused of being involved in her 3-year-old nephew’s drowning death.
Billie Jean Cuttler, 21, is facing a capital murder charge for allegedly conspiring with her boyfriend, Bobby Woods Jr., 19, of Lufkin, in the Aug. 17, 2015, drowning death of Mason Cuttler, according to previous reports. A jury in August found Cuttler mentally incompetent to stand trial for the child’s death.
Following the hearing, Angelina County District Attorney Joe Martin said Cuttler would undergo the 120-day treatment to restore competency.
“If they’re able to restore her competence, she will be brought back and we will go to trial,” Martin said. “If she is not able to be restored to competency, they can ask for an extension for an additional 60 days.”
He said that if Cuttler’s competency is not restored after the first extension, the prosecution could proceed with committing Cuttler indefinitely, with additional hearings every 12 months.
During the hearing, White said that Cuttler is unlikely to be found competent to stand trial because of her intellectual abilities.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Greenbaum said Cuttler will be sent to either the Rusk State Hospital or the North Texas State Hospital in Vernon, depending on availability of a bed.
During her competency trial, several people testified that Cuttler has the mental capacity of a kindergartner, according to previous reports.
In December, White denied a motion filed by Cuttler’s attorney, Al Charanza, that challenged the constitutionality of committing her to a maximum-security mental facility without the state having presented any evidence that she was involved in the offense.
“The constitutional challenge is when she goes to the maximum-security unit and is found to be a danger to the community, then she will stay there,” Charanza stated in a previous report. “If she is not found to be dangerous, she will be sent back to the court, and this is where the unconstitutionality is. The state will hold the keys to the rest of her life, and the state of Texas has never presented any evidence that she played any part in the offense.”
Then-Assistant District Attorney April Ayers-Perez said during the December hearing that legal measures are already in place to prevent any kind of constitutional violation.
“The safeguards and checks and balances are in place in order to protect from what Mr. Charanza is talking about,” Ayers-Perez said.
White decided in June to hold the August competency trial for Cuttler because the court had received conflicting mental health evaluations for her, according to the previous Lufkin News reports. Dr. Joseph Kartye testified on behalf of the defense that Cuttler is not competent to stand trial, but Dr. Mary Alice Conroy conducted another evaluation on behalf of the state and concluded that Cuttler was competent.
During closing arguments, Charanza said Cuttler mentally functions below 99.8 percent of the population, which prohibited her from assisting in her defense, according to the previous report.
Ayers-Perez did not agree with Charanza’s argument.
“There are people in this world who have no idea what’s going on,” she said. “Billie Jean is not one of those. ... She has been assisting in her defense since the very beginning.”
She claimed that Cuttler has been withholding information, lying and “diminishing her involvement.”
“She was changing her story because (detectives) were getting a little more and more out of her,” Ayers-Perez said.
She also said Conroy conducted the second evaluation because the prosecution felt Cuttler was being deceptive.
“If you don’t get it, if you don’t understand why you are here, then why be deceptive?” Ayers-Perez asked in the previous report. “Why would she say on the phone with her family that she is going to ‘act stupid’?”
As of Thursday, there were no future hearings scheduled for Woods, according to county records.
Casey Sizemore’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.