The suspect in a deadly Hanukkah stabbing rampage at the home of a New York rabbi has been ruled incompetent to stand trial onA federal judge ruled Monday that a psychological evaluation found 39-year-old Grafton Thomas is "presently suffering from a mental disease or defect" rendering him unable to participate in his own defense.
U.S. District Court judge Cathy Seibel ruled Thomas should be held in a medical facility for up to four months to determine whether he can regain competency to face the 10-count federal indictment, which charges him with attempting to kill or injure five Jewish congregants because of their religion.
The eldest victim, 72-year-old Josef Neumann, was critically injured and died of his injuries last month.
Thomas also faces state charges of attempted murder and burglary for the December 28 attack in Rockland County, but a judge there has not yet made a competency ruling because local prosecutors plan to bring murder charges before a grand jury in Neumann's death, reports the Journal News. The Rockland County District Attorney's office reportedly said it is reviewing the federal judge's ruling.
Thomas has pleaded not guilty. He allegedly entered the Monsey home where dozens of people were celebrating the seventh night of Hanukkah, said words to the effect of, "Nobody is leaving," and then took out a machete and started stabbing and slashing people.
One man in the home was hailed as a hero for throwing a table at the attacker and taking down his license plate number as he fled the scene. Officers who arrested Thomas about two hours later in New York City said he had blood on his hands and clothing, and found a blood-stained 18-inch machete in his car.
Federal prosecutors said investigators who searched Thomas' home foundalong with internet search terms including "Why did Hitler hate the Jews" and "German Jewish temples near me." But his lawyers have maintained Thomas is severely mentally ill and did not act out of hate. His lawyer Michael Sussman has said Thomas was experiencing auditory hallucinations and may not have been taking his medication for depression and psychosis before the attack.
"His diaries, writings, failure to take medications for long stretches, his actions on the night in question all bespeak to his very serious mental illness," Sussman said in a statement to CBS News Monday.
Sussman said "long-term hospitalization and treatment appear to be appropriate," but couldn't say whether Thomas would be able to assist in his own defense after treatment.