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Winston-Salem woman accused of fatally shooting gas station manager in 2016 found mentally incompetent. Murder charge dismissed.
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Winston-Salem woman accused of fatally shooting gas station manager in 2016 found mentally incompetent. Murder charge dismissed.

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A Forsyth County judge dismissed a first-degree murder charge against a Winston-Salem woman after determining the woman will never regain the mental capacity to stand trial.

The decision came after a 2½-hour hearing in Forsyth Superior Court in which a psychologist testified that Tonesha Tonyae Collins’ mental-health issues prevent her from fully understanding the legal situation she is in and from participating in any way in her defense.

Judge Michael Stone of Forsyth Superior Court signed an order that involuntarily commits Collins, 38, to Central Regional Hospital, where she has been for the past four years. She was initially declared mentally incompetent in August 2017.

And according to the experts who testified Tuesday, not much has changed, despite significant efforts to restore her mental competency.

Collins was indicted in August 2017 for first-degree murder. Authorities said that at 9:54 a.m. on May 30, 2016, Collins walked into the Citgo gas station in the 3400 block of Old Lexington Road, pulled out a handgun and shot J. Won Kim, the station’s manager. Kim was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where he died July 17, 2016.

Search warrants allege that before Kim lost consciousness, he told officers that the woman who shot him had been following and stalking him. According to court documents, security cameras caught Collins shooting Kim.

Vince Rabil, Collins’ attorney, filed a motion to dismiss the murder charge, which prompted the hearing on Tuesday.

Amy M. Leeper, a senior psychologist at Central Regional Hospital, wrote the initial report in 2017 that concluded Collins was mentally incompetent to stand trial. She testified Tuesday that she had interviewed Collins five times over the past four years and reviewed other material to come to her conclusion that Collins still is not mentally competent to stand trial.

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She said Collins has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Collins has a delusional belief that a shadowy organization bigger than the U.S. government is responsible for sexually abusing her children and children around the world, Leeper said.

That delusion fueled her motivation in killing Kim because she believed that Kim was part of that organization, which she also felt was persecuting her, Leeper said. Collins also believes that the organization has its claws in the Winston-Salem Police Department and in the court system, creating such a corrupt system that it is impossible for her to get a fair trial, Leeper said.

Nearly two months before shooting Kim, Collins traveled to Illinois, where her mother lives, and went to the emergency room of a local hospital, saying that her two children were being sexually abused. But there was no evidence of such abuse, Leeper said, and medical personnel became concerned about Collins’ mental state. Collins was eventually involuntarily committed for a period of time and then sent for outpatient care, which she did not attend.

Collins had not previously been diagnosed with a mental-health condition and was able to get a concealed-gun permit, according to testimony.

Assistant District Attorney Belinda Foster brought up an incident that happened when Collins was 12. It happened in Illinois where Collins was accused of accidentally shooting a younger child to death. Foster implied by her questions that the shooting might have been intentional, saying that there was evidence that Collins had loaded a gun, went downstairs, shot the other child and then falsely said that the child had killed herself.

But Dr. Moira Artigues, a forensic psychiatrist, said that all the evidence showed that the shooting was accidental and that there was no connection between that incident and the fatal shooting of Kim in 2016.

Foster said she agreed that Collins was mentally incompetent.

Forsyth County prosecutors can reinstate the murder charge if Collins ever regains her mental competency.

But the likelihood of that happening is slim, experts testified.

336-727-7326

@mhewlettWSJ

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