Judge: Man fit to stand trial for double homicide

Published 9:47 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2017

By Mary Pieper, Mason City Globe Gazette

MASON CITY — A judge ruled Tuesday that a Lake Mills man accused of murdering two people in Mason City in November is mentally competent to stand trial.

Peter Veal, 31, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the Nov. 17 deaths of Mason City residents Mindy Kavars and Caleb Christensen at a residence in the 1600 block of North Hampshire Avenue.

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Veal is also facing one count of the attempted murder of a witness at the scene.

Veal pleaded not guilty in December and was scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 24.

Peter Veal

However, court proceedings were postponed in early January after District Court Judge Rustin Davenport ruled probable cause existed for a psychiatric evaluation of Veal to determine if he was able to understand court proceedings and assist in his own defense.

In early March Davenport ruled Veal was not competent to stand trial based on a report from a doctor who determined he was suffering from a mental disorder that prevented him from participating in court proceedings.

Davenport sent Veal to the Iowa prison system’s licensed Forensic Psychiatric Hospital to be treated until he was able to stand trial.

During Veal’s competency hearing in Mason City on Tuesday, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown said two mental health professionals have now determined he is competent.

However, public defender Steven Kloberdanz said the reports from those doctors state Veal reports audio hallucinations and they aren’t sure whether they are being caused by his medication, schizophrenia or a combination of both.

The doctors “need to sort that out” to see if Veal needs to be treated for schizophrenia before being declared competent or if they can rule out schizophrenia entirely.

Veal’s mother, Leanne Veal, testified she has paid two 15-minute visits to her son since he returned from the prison hospital to the Cerro Gordo County Jail. One of those visits was on Mothers Day and the other was on the following weekend.

She said during her first visit her son was rocking from side to side, looking behind him and acting “very paranoid.”

She also said during her second visit, Veal asked how one of his sisters was doing even though they had already talked about her just a few minutes earlier.

Kloberdanz said Veal sometimes doesn’t respond when he and Nellie O’Mara, the other public defender assigned to the case, meet with him and ask him questions.

He said they think Veal is “listening to the voices (in his head) rather than his attorney.”