In a barely audible voice, a Texas City woman accused of shooting her former boyfriend to death in a Walmart parking lot in 2013 asked for a jury to decide whether she was mentally competent to stand trial.
Just a few hours later, however, she had changed her mind and asked a district court judge to decide.
Judge Michelle Slaughter ruled Tuesday that Roshonda Latrice Howard, 45, was competent to stand trial and that an earlier guilty plea would stand.
The punishment phase of proceedings against Howard will continue in front of the judge at 9:30 a.m. today, Slaughter said.
Hours before jury selection was set to begin Monday, Howard pleaded guilty to one count of murder in the death of Jacob Felts, 37, at the Victory Lakes Walmart in September 2013.
Ever since Howard was charged in connection with Felts’ death, officials have questioned her mental health, twice delaying legal proceedings.
Slaughter late Monday called for another competency evaluation and a doctor testified Tuesday that Howard was “presently competent,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Adam Poole said.
Defense attorneys initially requested that a jury rule on her competency because they didn’t believe she was capable of standing trial, said Margaret Hindman, one of Howard’s attorneys.
“She has been in and out of hospitals since 2012,” Hindman said.
Felts, 37, of La Marque, an electronics department employee at Walmart, was leaving work when he was shot, police said. He was taken by helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital where he died from a gunshot wound to his chest, according to the Harris County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Howard turned herself in to League City police after the shooting, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The night Felts was shot, Howard told police that she had dated him for about six years before he ended the relationship and that she was badly hurt by the decision, according to recordings of a statement she made to investigators.
The breakup came after she had been in and out of hospitals and that she was depressed and delusional, she said in the recording.
Howard eventually purchased a Bersa Thunder .380-caliber handgun and drove to where Felts worked to confront him, according to the affidavit.
“My head was messed up and I had terrible migraines,” Howard said in the recording. “Why would he do this? I bought a gun to protect myself.”
Howard told investigators she asked Felts why he broke up with her and cheated on her, according to the affidavit.
Felts’ relatives Tuesday denied he had ever cheated on Howard.
Security video showed a woman parked next to Felts’ SUV getting out of her car and firing several shots into the driver’s side window and door of Felts’ vehicle, police said.
Eight shell casings were found at the scene, according to the affidavit.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do it,” Howard said in the recording.
Howard in the recording told police she didn’t remember much of the evening, including what led her to shoot Felts and where her car was during the incident.
A person is ruled to be competent or incompetent to stand trial based on rules set out in Chapter 46B of the Code of Criminal Procedures, Poole said.
Some factors that determine a person’s competency include an ability to rationally understand charges and facts, legal strategies, to testify and exhibit appropriate courtroom behavior.