Psychologist appointed to examine EC murder suspect
Mar. 18—EAU CLAIRE — A forensic psychologist from Milwaukee has been appointed to conduct a competency exam for the Eau Claire man accused of fatally shooting his northside neighbor in July 2016.
Eau Claire County Judge Sarah Harless appointed Christina Engen to perform the exam. She is the clinical director at Behavioral Consultants in Milwaukee. Engen formerly worked for the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison.
A competency hearing for Shane M. Helmbrecht will be scheduled following the exam to determine whether Helmbrecht is competent to assist with his defense.
An Eau Claire County judge in 2018 ordered that Helmbrecht be placed on a civil mental commitment because he is a danger to himself and others as a result of his mental illness.
The judge ordered the civil commitment after ruling that Helmbrecht is incompetent to assist with his defense and is not likely to gain competency in the future.
Helmbrecht, 51, at that time was placed on a Chapter 51 commitment, which provides legal procedures for voluntary and involuntary admission, treatment and rehabilitation of people afflicted with mental illness, developmental disability, drug dependency or alcoholism.
The criminal case against Helmbrecht was then suspended indefinitely to allow prosecutors to petition the court at a later date if Helmbrecht's mental status changes.
Harless in February agreed with Eau Claire County District Attorney Peter Rindal, who filed a motion seeking to conduct another competency evaluation.
Helmbrecht has had nine different competency evaluations since September 2016. He was found not competent to assist with his defense in six of the evaluations and competent in the other three.
In half of the evaluations where Helmbrecht was found incompetent, the evaluators believed he was not likely to ever become competent.
In four prior competency hearings, judges found Helmbrecht competent once and not competent to assist with his defense at the other three hearings.
Helmbrecht is charged with a felony count of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of Jenny Ward, 36, in her home at 105 Simon Court.
According to the criminal complaint:
Helmbrecht told police that voices in his head were terrorizing him and telling him his neighbors were harming children.
Helmbrecht entered Ward's home at 6:30 a.m. July 30, 2016, and shot her twice. A medical examiner conducting the autopsy said one of the shots hit her heart and the wound was not survivable.
Helmbrecht told police he was feeling pressure from neighbors. He said he talked with only two neighbors, and "everyone else seemed standoffish and strange to me." He believed his neighbors thought he was a pedophile.
Ward's husband was not home at the time of the shooting, but her 14- and 11-year-old children were in the residence.
Helmbrecht's parents told police their son served in Iraq and Afghanistan and needed medical attention because he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.