published Friday, August 17th, 2012

Chattanooga man charged with murder of 5-year-old son cleared to stand trial

A 35-year-old Chattanooga man charged with murder in the 2003 death of his 5-year-old son has been declared mentally competent to stand trial.

Dedric Lamont Atkins faces a charge of first-degree murder in the Sept. 28, 2003, beating and strangling death of his son Dedric Johnson. His trial is scheduled for Oct. 9.

Psychiatrists have evaluated Atkins repeatedly at the Middle Tennessee Health Institute since his arrest and declared him "delusional and psychotic" because of a history of schizophrenia and mental illness dating to at least 1997, according to Times Free Press archives.

A February letter from the institute declared that Atkins no longer needed housing in the facility and sent him back to the Hamilton County Jail, advising, however, that he maintain a medication regimen.

Atkins' attorney, Hilary Hodgkins, has filed paperwork to seek an insanity defense based on Atkins' mental state at the time of the crime. Following a pretrial hearing Thursday, she said that experts for both the defense and prosecution say her client is able to stand trial but that the insanity defense is valid.

A jury will determine if Atkins is guilty after hearing prosecution evidence and expert witness testimony.

In 2003, Atkins told a security officer in the lobby of Patten Towers on East 11th Street that he beat and strangled his son to death in his third-floor apartment. He gave the same statements to paramedics and others and said voices in the television told him to kill the boy, according to newspaper archives.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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