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April 29. 2013 12:16PM

Insanity defense may be used in Nashua murder trial

NASHUA - An attorney representing Duane Rolfe, the Nashua man accused of killing his sister earlier this year, claims his client has significant mental health issues.

If Rolfe, 65, is deemed competent to stand trial in the death of his sister, Judith Rolfe, 66, attorney Timothy Landry said Monday that he will rely on an insanity defense. Duane Rolfe, who has been held without bail since his sister's death on Jan. 19 at their 8 Belmont St. home, was arraigned Monday at Hillsborough County Superior Court, where he pleaded not guilty to alternative charges of first- and second-degree murder.

Judith Rolfe died of multiple blunt-force injuries to the head with lacerations and contusions to the brain, according to investigators, who have refused to identify what type of weapon may have been used or what may have motivated the January attack.

Less than two weeks after Duane Rolfe's arrest, a competency evaluation was sought by the defense's legal team. Dr. Philip Kinsler, a clinical and forensic psychologist, performed the evaluation, according to Landry, who expects the results of that evaluation to be available within a few days.

"There is an issue of competency," Landry told the court, requesting that a second evaluation be conducted closer to the date of the upcoming competency hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. "There are numerous diagnoses."

Although Landry would not elaborate on the diagnoses made by Kinsler, he did stress that "significant mental health" concerns were raised, without going into specifics. "I think I would be remiss to state one now," he told the court.

Landry believes his client is currently incompetent to stand trial, but he said Rolfe is working with his legal counsel. "He began a new course of medication at the jail," said Landry, adding he is unaware of any relatives visiting Rolfe since his incarceration.

Benjamin Agati, assistant attorney general, said the state will conduct its own mental evaluation on Rolfe to determine whether he is competent for trial. It is too premature to dispute competency at this stage, according to Agati.

Dr. Albert Drukteinis, a clinical psychiatrist, may be asked to perform the state's evaluation on Rolfe, said Agati. Under law, the defense has 30 days from the arraignment date to announce whether it intends to utilize an insanity defense, Agati said, explaining it is not uncommon for competency issues to be raised early in the legal process.

Also on Monday, Rolfe's attorney asserted his client's right to a speedy trial, requesting that the case be tried within six to eight months. Agati said that "hard and fast" deadlines will have to be implemented to ensure a trial within that time frame.

Judge Diane Nicolosi asked that the request for a competency hearing be placed in writing as soon as possible.

"It has to be within 60 days," said Nicolosi. She ordered that the defense submit its competency evaluation report by May 7, and that the state issue its competency evaluation report by June 14.

The first-degree murder charge alleges that Rolfe purposely caused the death of his sister by striking her repeatedly with an undisclosed blunt object, while the second-degree murder charge alleges that he recklessly caused her death by manifesting an extreme indifference to human life, according to court documents.

So far, authorities have remained tight-lipped about the woman's fatal beating. The siblings operated McDonald's kitchen shop in downtown Nashua for decades, according to friends, who said Judith Rolfe took care of her younger brother for many years.

The police affidavit detailing the crime has been sealed at the courthouse.

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