A Stanislaus County judge on Wednesday suspended a criminal case against the man accused of killing Newman Police Cpl. Ronil Singh, because the defendant’s mental competency has come into question.

The defendant accused of murder in the police corporal’s death on Wednesday told Superior Court Judge Ricardo Córdova that Paulo Virgen Mendoza is his real name; Virgen is his father’s last name and Mendoza is his mother’s last name.

Authorities say Mendoza shot Singh Dec. 26, shortly after the police corporal pulled him over on suspicion of driving under the influence near the intersection of Merced Street and Eucalyptus in Newman.

When the defendant was arrested last week, authorities identified him as Gustavo Perez Arriaga, but that name was just one of his aliases, his court-appointed attorney, Stephen Foley, told the judge.

The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday morning filed a criminal complaint against Mendoza, 32, charging him with murder and a special circumstances enhancement that makes the case eligible for the death penalty.

Deputy District Attorney Jeff Mangar, who has been assigned to prosecute Mendoza, told the judge that the District Attorney’s Office has not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

Crowded courtroom

All but one seat was taken in the courtroom’s audience. Several members of the defendant’s families attended Wednesday’s hearing; they sat in the first available row on the left side of the courtroom behind the defendant.

About two dozen members of Singh’s family attended Wednesday’s hearing. Most of Singh’s family sat on the right side of the courtroom, joined by several Newman police officers.

Outside, roughly 75 people staged a rally in support of Singh, his family and law enforcement officers in general. They lined the walkway into the courthouse with signs reading “Back the Blue,” “Enough is Enough,” and “All Lives Matter.”

Several Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputies provided security inside the courtroom, along with Sheriff Adam Christianson.

Mental competency questioned

Mendoza entered the courtroom Wednesday afternoon wearing a red-and-white jail inmate jumpsuit and shackled at the wrists and ankles. He was assisted in court by a Spanish language interpreter.

Foley told the judge that he has some doubt about his client’s mental competency based on the brief conversation he had with Mendoza before Wednesday’s hearing.

Córdova then suspended the case against Mendoza until a doctor can conduct a mental health evaluation. The court will have to determine whether Mendoza can understand the criminal case proceedings and assist his attorney in his legal defense. The case cannot continue until Mendoza is declared mentally competent.

Córdova scheduled Mendoza to return to court Feb. 7, giving the doctor five weeks to conduct the mental health evaluation and submit a report to the court. Mendoza did not enter a plea Wednesday. He will remain at the Stanislaus County Jail without bail, where he has been held since he was returned from Kern County, where he was captured Friday morning.

The criminal complaint against Mendoza also includes enhancements for allegedly using a gun in Singh’s death and acting with premeditation.

Accessory defendants

Four people were arrested in Stanislaus County and charged with accessory. Authorities said they helped Mendoza in his efforts to evade capture by slipping through to Mexico, destroyed evidence and lied to detectives after the police corporal’s shooting death. They made their first court appearance Monday.

Mendoza’s girlfriend Ana Leyde Cervantes, 30; his brothers Conrado Virgen Mendoza, 34, and Adrian Virgen, 25; and his co-worker Erik Razo Quiroz, 35, have pleaded not guilty to the felony accessory charge. They remain in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail, the bail amount set at $100,000 for each of them.

The four defendants returned to court Wednesday afternoon for a pretrial hearing. Deputies ushered those defendants into the courtroom after Mendoza was taken back to the jail.

They also were assisted in court by a Spanish language interpreter, who spoke to them through a microphone-headset system. Judge Córdova scheduled the four defendants to return to court Friday. The judge has to make sure their court-appointed attorneys have no conflicts of interest and the defense has received the evidence prosecutors have gathered in this murder case.

Mangar said the District Attorney’s Office will likely file a motion to consolidate the cases against the five defendants, but the cases remain filed separately, for now.

The judge told Mangar that before filing such a motion, the District Attorney’s office should consider the court’s security concerns. Córdova said having all five defendants in one courtroom at the same time can be “unwieldy.”

A 55-hour manhunt for Mendoza ended Friday morning, when he was found and arrested at a home near Bakersfield. Three people accused of helping Mendoza evade capture also were arrested at the Bakersfield home and face accessory charges in Kern County.

Mendoza has been held without bail at the Stanislaus County Jail since Friday. Authorities say Mendoza entered the country illegally, and he had two DUI arrests in the Madera-Chowchilla area.

(8) comments

REMUDA

Three times across the border . . . ? Prior's . . . ? It'll all come out as his (MS-13) connections unfold . . .!
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The 'book' outline is in the works (with the publisher) and the 'story-board' is in the sketch-stage as we watch . . . !
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Sorta like "Bone Tomahawk" (but who will 'star') . . . !
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Stand by . . . Semper Fortis . . . !

Patricia Edna

Stephen Foley is a shameful, sorry excuse for an attorney. As if the family and Stanislaus Sheriff’s Department hasn’t been through enough, now he wants to drag this out by trying to game the system and waste additional tax dollars. Thanks to our legislators, the judge has no option but to approve the request. If Foley thinks he’s gaining sympathy by implying this cop killer is mental, he better think again. He’s only causing increased outrage by exposing further flaws in our system, which benefit illegal immigrant criminals, which continue to cost the taxpayers

Bibliophile1000

Don’t blame the judge; blame the defense attorney for trying to excuse the murder of a police officer. The judge is right to get the mental competence issue out of the way now. If he had ignored it and the case proceeded, a guilty verdict would have been overturned on appeal and the case would have dragged on for years. In the meantime, the murderer would have become the poster boy for “poor mentally incompetent immigrants who have been railroaded by the bad, racist legal system.” Arriaga or Mendoza or whoever he is clearly knew what he was doing. Let’s get the trial right the first time, lock him up with the other murderers, and forget about him.

Walliford

Thanks to voters, California is a solid one-party state ruled by extremely progressive/liberal Democrats. The rulers in Sacramento can raise taxes and enact laws that seem to favor criminals (Prop. 47; AB109) over law abiding Californians with impunity.

This cop killer is a product of the state's sanctuary status mindset. The Democrats severely limit cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement. Criminals aliens slip through. Will Californians ever wise up and at least vote for balance in Sacramento?

Inconvenient Truth

He clearly had the presence of mind to:
1) Flee the scene of the murder.
2) Leave the County.
3) Seek aid from friends/relatives to harbor him.
4) Attempt to flee to Mexico (which won't extradite Capital Murder)

These seem like the thought processes of a rational mind.

mrdwm1

Another leftist / liberal judge; these people are a disease..

Patricia Edna

It’s not the judge, it’s the defense attorney. Had the judge denied the request he’d be leaving the door wide open for an appeal. Blame these scumbag defense attorneys who can’t just come up with a straight up defense rather than trying to game the system and waste further tax dollars

Vladdy

Build the wall.

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