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Compher murder trial on hold pending mental competency

The 2004 murder of Nori Jones in Pocatello has been unresolved for more than a decade. Nori Jones was stabbed to death inside her home on Pole Line Road in 2004.

The case went cold for ten years until new technology helped identify Compher as the suspect in 2014. He was arrested and charged in Sept. 2014.

Since then, the case has been stuck in the court system for four years and counting.

“It’s unusual for a whole bunch of reasons, the chief of which is we filed notice to file for the death penalty,” said Zahcary Parris, chief deputy prosecuting attorney. “And because it’s a death penalty case, it just takes a little big longer to do their thing they need to do.”

Parris said there’s also a lot of people involved this case, as well as a lot of evidence, including a lot of DNA evidence which takes time to process.

For about the last year, Parris said the biggest holdup has been Compher’s mental status and whether he’s fit to stand trial.

Multiple doctor evaluations show right now, he is not competent for trial.

Now, Parris said the wait is over where Compher will go for treatment to be restored to competency.

“Normally, what happens if it’s just a normal, individual case – not a murder case, just a regular case, is they’ll send those folks to State Hospital South for competency restoration,” Parris explained. “But State Hospital South is not a secure facility so a person could arguably just walk out and there’s not a lot those folks can do. They’re not really geared to handle someone who “elopes,” is the term they use. So the question becomes whether or not he’s dangerously mentally ill, and that makes a difference, and that is what the judge is deciding as we speak.”

If the judge rules he is dangerously mentally ill, Compher will have to go to the Department of Corrections, which has a secure facility for competency restoration treatment.

If he’s not ruled dangerously mentally ill, he would likely end up at State Hospital South for treatment.

“Because of the nature of the charges and the allegations, the court has to pretty careful about where it places a person like Mr. Compher,” Parris said.

The judge hasn’t ruled on that yet, but Parris said they expect a ruling any day which should hopefully help get things rolling along some again, one way or another.

Parris also said this case is not only a lot of time, but also a lot of money.

“Because of the nature of the case and because of the needs that have arisen, it’s a very expensive process because the taxpayers are paying for all of it,” Parris said. “They’re paying for the cost of the prosecution, they’re paying for the cost of the public defender, they’re paying for all of the professionals who are weighing in on this case giving evidence for the court to consider as they make decisions about things like competency. So yeah, it’s an expensive process but I think it’s worth it.”

Parris said while he does want to be sure everything is fair and by the book on the case, he said the prosecution is ready for this case when, or even if, it does make it to trial.

Parris said as for competency restoration, there’s no set timeline. He said everyone is different. It can take a few weeks, several months, or longer. He said it’s even possible Compher may never be able to be restored to competency for trial. He said that is rare but does occasionally happen with cases.

Currently, the Compher case is the only one in Bannock County that includes the death penalty.

Idaho is also one of four states that does not allow an insanity defense.

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