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Teen accused in death has May competency hearing

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — The legal battle over George Steward’s competency to stand trial won’t be resolved until at least late May, after a brief hearing Thursday morning before Judge Megan Brennan of the Wayne County Circuit Court.

Steward, 17, stands accused of killing and burning the body of 91-year-old neighbor Paul Monchnik last November on Detroit’s west side.

He is charged with first-degree murder, felony murder and burning a dwelling.

Attorney David Cripps represented Steward in place of law partner Gabi Silver.

Afterward, Cripps explained that the competency hearing can be a two-part process: First, the state holds its own examination of the defendant, and prepares a report. If the state’s expert agrees that the defendant is not competent to stand trial, an independent report may not be necessary.

But if the state says the defendant is competent, and the defense disagrees, the defense can hold an independent examination, using an expert from a list pre-approved by the court.

That doctor, in this case, is Dr. Firoza Van Horn. At issue is Steward’s ability to both stand trial and to be held criminally responsible for his actions.

Both sides are due back in court on May 25 for another competency hearing.

Steward is accused of beating, shooting and setting Monchnik on fire Nov. 23 in his home in the 20500 block of Bentler.

An autopsy found Monchnik had a fifth of a cup of a by-product of an accelerant that was possibly gasoline. He said the victim may have been forced to drink it, an assistant Wayne County medical examiner testified in January.

jdickson@detroitnews.com