Ten months after a Gilroy woman was arrested for murder for killing her husband and daughter in a drunken car crash, the courts have wrestled with whether the suspect is mentally competent for trial.
Stacy Lonnberg, 51, sat silently in court Tuesday in San Jose afternoon as the judge determined that a third psychologist should evaluate Lonnberg before the court can make a decision regarding her mental wellness.
Lonnberg’s husband Fred Lonnberg, 57, and her daughter Tiffiny Gillette, 26, died when Stacy was driving under the influence and rolled the family’s pickup on Highway 85 in Los Gatos on Jan. 14, 2012, according to the California Highway Patrol. Lonnberg’s blood-alcohol content measured twice the legal limit at 0.16.
Lonnberg claimed she was mentally incompetent for trial in September. After two doctors gave contradicting opinions on Lonnberg’s readiness for trial, the judge decided to halt proceedings until Nov. 28 after a third, “tie breaking” doctor weighs in.
One court-ordered doctor, Andrea Shelley, reported that Lonnberg was not competent for trial, a conclusion that confused Judge Ron Del Pozzo, based on the content of her report.
“I felt the substance of the report did not match the conclusion. That’s the first time I’ve seen that,” Del Pozzo said.
The judge appointed a second doctor to evaluate Lonnberg, Brent Hughey, who had very similar substance in his report, according to Del Pozzo, but came to an opposite conclusion – that Lonnberg is in fact, mentally sound enough to withstand trial.
Family and loved ones of Fred Lonnberg and Tiffiny Gillette sat in the courtroom audience, shaking their heads and sighing as the bailiff escorted Lonnberg into the courtroom.
Lonnberg’s defense attorney had asked the judge to waive Lonnberg’s appearance.
“What a coward,” one of the family members whispered to another when they learned that she might not appear.
But the judge ultimately summoned her for an appearance. Lonnberg, handcuffed and dressed in red jail garb, sat with her back to the courtroom audience, looking at the floor. Her hair appeared to have grayed since her booking photo from January, in which she had blond hair.
After the hearing, Fred Lonnbeg’s former wife, 57-year-old Linda Lonnberg, stood outside the courtroom with her daughter, Jennifer.
“He was a good man,” Linda said, her eyes welling with tears. “My kids don’t deserve to go through all of this. They didn’t deserve to lose their dad, and there is no closure for them until all of this is over.”
Linda said she hopes that the trial begins soon, and that Lonnberg is prosecuted for murder as she is currently charged.
“I know these things take time, and I’m glad they are trying to be fair. It’s just hard to see it go on and on. I just pray a lot and hope it all works out,” Linda said.
Adam Simms, 48, said he is still grieving the loss of his fiancé, Tiffiny.
“There is nothing mentally unstable about Stacy. She is just avoiding trial, trying to get out of the whole thing,” Simms said, his voice quivering and gaining volume. “Trust me, she is more than sane.”
Simms softened, his eyes glazing over.
“I just don’t know if this will ever be over for me,” he said.
Lonnberg is in custody on two counts of murder and one count of child endangerment, as her 3-year-old grandson (Tiffiny’s son) was in the pickup at the time of the wreck, Braker said..
If convicted, Lonnberg could face a minimum of 15 years in prison.
The next court hearing, when the judge will ultimately determine if Lonnberg is fit for trial was set for Nov. 28 at 1:30 in San Jose.