Man may face trial in shootings


Published: Friday, January 11, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 11, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

A man accused of going on a shooting spree at a Gainesville mobile home park and killing two people in 2005 could again be facing the death penalty if he is ruled competent to stand trial, according to the State Attorney's Office.

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Eldrick D. Simon, 29.

New information now indicates Eldrick D. Simon, now 29, no longer needs to remain at a state hospital for mental health treatment, said State Attorney Bill Cervone.

The State Attorney's Office received a letter from the hospital last week.

"In their opinion, he is now competent to proceed and no longer needs to be in involuntary commitment," he said.

A hearing is set for next week on the case, and a judge will have to determine if Simon can stand trial.

But, Cervone said, "We are going to aggressively pursue adjudication of competency so we can now go forward and try him."

Cervone said he does not expect an immediate decision from the court regarding Simon's competency. Simon likely will return from the hospital to the Alachua County jail, where additional examinations will be done to evaluate his mental health.

Prosecutors had filed notice before Simon was declared incompetent that they intended to seek the death penalty. They still plan to seek that sentence, Cervone said.

"He was merely found incompetent to stand trial on that particular day," Cervone said. "Realistically, I expect a mental health defense on the charges and the death penalty, but that's a different issue."

At the time Simon was declared incompetent, a prosecutor said the state disagreed with the judge's ruling and would pursue the case once he is able to stand trial.

An attorney for Simon, who was represented by the Public Defender's Office, could not be reached Thursday.

A judge had declared Simon incompetent to stand trial a few months after the shooting at the Candlelight Estates mobile home park, 1600 NE 12th Ave., on July 14, 2005.

Police allege Simon randomly opened fire on the park after plotting revenge against his neighbors because he claimed they had victimized him.

Killed were Robert Thomas, 48, and Donald Mitchell, 39, both Simon's neighbors. Three others, Corey Taylor, 20, Gerrell Floyd, 23, and Rebecca Floyd, 20, were wounded.

Officers stopped Simon from carrying out his plan to head to the Duval neighborhood across Waldo Road, shoot three other people, then turn himself in, police reported. Simon also was accused of trying to burn down a home across the street from his residence at Lot 8 in the mobile home park.

But the case was halted when Simon was found incompetent and hospitalized.

A defendant's competency depends on various criteria, including whether a person understands what he is going through and his ability to assist in his own defense.

Lise Fisher can be reached at 352-374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun.com.

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