Santiago in court: Judge orders omnibus hearing next week

Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Joseph Santiago is escorted from the Carroll County Eastern District Courthouse in Berryville after a brief court appearance on Monday
Photo by Scott Loftis/Carroll County News

Joseph Santiago, the Carroll County man accused of killing his autistic older brother in January 2017, appeared briefly on Monday in Carroll County Circuit Court in Berryville.

Santiago, 19, is charged with capital murder in the death of 21-year-old Alex Santiago on Jan. 17, 2017.

Santiago underwent a court-ordered mental evaluation on Feb. 13, one day after his defense attorney filed a motion to dismiss a previous defense motion that asked for the evaluation. Prosecutors responded by filing a motion to proceed with the evaluation and Carroll County Circuit Judge Scott Jackson ordered Santiago to attend the evaluation and scheduled Monday’s hearing to hear arguments on the opposing motions.

The psychologist who interviewed Santiago reported that he was fit to stand trial.

On Monday, public defender Robert “Beau” Allen said he would like to reserve any argument with respect to the mental evaluation, and Jackson said that he intended to grant the state’s motion.

“I think that’s the proper avenue for the evaluation to be accepted,” Jackson said.

Allen also indicated that the defense intends to file motions related to discovery issues. Jackson instructed him to present those issues in writing and scheduled an omnibus hearing for 1 p.m. Monday, March 5, at the Carroll County Eastern District Courthouse in Berryville.

Santiago, whose parents were seated on the front row of the Berryville courtroom on Monday, entered the courtroom with four other inmates from the Carroll County Detention Center. He sat alone on the back row of the jury box, whispering quietly with an inmate seated on the front row.

When his case was called, Santiago joined Allen and returned Jackson’s greeting, saying “Good afternoon, your honor. How are you?”

Santiago was handcuffed and shackled at the waist and feet, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit. After his hearing was complete, he was quickly escorted from the courtroom by Carroll County Sheriff’s Office investigator J.J. Reddick.

In addition to the capital murder charge, Santiago also is charged with attempted capital murder and arson. Those charges apparently stem from a fire at the family’s home in April 2016.

Santiago told CCSO investigators that he locked his brother in his room and poured gasoline on the floor before setting the home on fire, according to a probable cause affidavit. The affidavit also says Santiago admitted to killing Alex Santiago with a baseball bat and sword.

Santiago was 17 at the time of his brother’s death, but prosecutors have said from the outset that they intend to try him as an adult.

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