LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – Malachi Hankel, convicted of first degree reckless homicide in a heroin-related death, has been ruled not fit for sentencing during a review hearing on Tuesday afternoon.
In a previous review hearing on April 23rd, Hankel’s attorneys said he suffers from a bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and said the medication he had been prescribed altered his ability to think. Because of this, Judge Todd Bjerke ruled Hankel was not fit for sentencing.
Hankel was found guilty in February to the reckless homicide charge in a plea agreement. However, in Tuesday’s review hearing at La Crosse County Courthouse, according to one psychiatrist’s report, Hankel continues to suffer from mental health issues—meaning he is not fit for sentencing.
“Mr. Hankel appears to continue to be suffering from his mental health issues. The doctor’s opinion is that Mr. Hankel still does not have substantial mental capacity to understand the proceedings or participate in sentencing,” Bjerke said.
The next review hearing for an update on Hankel’s mental health has been scheduled for June 30th. Hankel is undergoing treatment at Mendota Mental Health Institute, so did not appear at Tuesday’s hearing.
“It’s (the doctor’s) opinion that Mr. Hankel needs treatment and treatment with medication is medically appropriate, and it is substantially unlikely to undermine the trial’s fairness,” Bjerke said.
Last November, Judge Bjerke found probable cause for a trial for Hankel. According to the criminal complaint, the 28-year-old Hankel provided heroin to Thomas Tremain in September, 2013. Tremain then died of an overdoes at a Town of Barre home. Investigators tracked down Hankel because of a note he’d left for Tremain. The note stated that he (Hankel) had to leave to go home, but because Tremain was passed out, left his name and phone number because he wanted to make sure Tremain was okay.
Police later contacted Hankel after finding Tremain’s body. Hankel admitted to giving the heroin to Tremain.
The reckless homicide charge carries a maximum 40-year sentence.
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