published Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

California mixed-martial arts fighter faces trial in grim slaying

EUREKA, Calif. (AP) — A mixed-martial artist accused of ripping out his friend’s still-beating heart and removing the man’s tongue and skin while he was alive is competent to stand trial on murder, mayhem and torture charges, a Northern California judge has ruled.

Del Norte County Judge William Follett reinstated criminal proceedings against Jarrod Wyatt, 27, of Klamath, in the death of his friend and sparring partner, Taylor Powell, 21. The judge’s decision Tuesday came after a pair of psychiatrists determined Wyatt was mentally competent to stand trial, the Eureka Times-Standard reported. The trial was set for Sept. 10.

Authorities who went to a home near the mouth of the Klamath River on March 21, 2010, found Powell dead on the couch with his chest cut open and his heart, tongue and the skin of his face removed, according to court records.

Wyatt — naked and covered in blood — acknowledged that he had killed Powell and cut out his heart and tongue, authorities said.

An autopsy revealed that the organs had been removed while Powell was still alive. His heart was found charred in a wood-burning stove at the home.

According to witnesses, the two had ingested hallucinogenic mushrooms and believed they were part of a struggle between God and the devil.

Follett suspended criminal proceedings in January after a doctor who evaluated Wyatt for the defense said he was not competent because he did not understand court proceedings, according to the Times-Standard.

The judge ordered the additional evaluations that cleared Wyatt for trial.

Wyatt’s attorney, James Fallman, said he agreed with Follett’s determination and doesn’t see the need to seek a jury trial to determine Wyatt’s competency.

“He’s been better lately,” Fallman said.

Wyatt has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. He faces life in prison without parole if convicted.

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