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Judge rules on competency of man accused of killing father with club
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Daniel Burchardt sits in Hall County Superior Court Thursday, June 30, 2022, for a competency hearing. Burchardt is accused of killing his father in 2018. - photo by Scott Rogers

A Hall County judge ruled that a man accused of killing his father with a club is not competent to stand trial, according to court documents.

Daniel Wallis Burchardt, 26, was indicted in May 2018 with malice murder in the April 5, 2018, death of Tony Louis Burchardt, 52. According to the indictment, Daniel Burchardt hit his father on the head with a club.

Authorities said the two men lived on the same parcel of land but in different homes roughly 50 yards apart. Burchardt had an ankle monitor from a previous case for aggravated assault and burglary.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office said deputies came to Looper Lake Road when they found that Burchardt’s ankle monitor had been tampered with.

Tony Burchardt was found dead and Daniel Burchardt’s ankle monitor was found at the scene, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

In June, the prosecution and the defense presented their evidence before Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin on whether Burchardt was competent to stand trial.

Gosselin wrote in her Sept. 8 judgment that the “overwhelming evidence in this case” — from the doctors, psychologists, Burchardt’s mother and Buchardt himself — has shown that Burchardt is “unable to sustain whatever gains he made toward competency and that he is not restorable.”

The judge ruled Burchardt will be held in a Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities secure facility until a trial on civil commitment.

Doctors from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities said the symptoms of Burchardt’s schizophrenia, which include thought blocking and thought disorganization, “affect his ability to rationally and coherently communicate and impair his ability to assist his attorney adequately.”

Since 2019, psychologists have gone back and forth on whether Burchardt was competent to stand trial.

In August 2020, Burchardt displayed symptoms of “psychosis and physical violence and appeared increasingly paranoid.”

In September 2021, a doctor noted that Burchardt “appeared more disheveled, his speech was disorganized and he frequently would not complete a sentence,” according to Gosselin’s order.

Burchardt was also isolating himself more and appeared to be reacting to hallucinations, according to the order. He often refused to bathe and smelled strongly of urine, a doctor told the court.

When he was reevaluated in December 2021, Burchardt “could not demonstrate factual and rational knowledge of his current legal situation, the court process and his ability to work with his attorney,” according to the order.

In June 2022, Dr. Emile Risby observed Burchardt could not explain simple concepts in detail, like how to change a tire or build a house.

“Dr. Risby explained that schizophrenia is not curable and is ‘a lifetime disease requiring lifetime treatment,’” according to Gosselin’s order.

Burchardt’s mother, Theda Burchardt, testified that there are “little pockets of reality” mixed in with delusions.

“For instance, he fixed a car, so he thinks he is a mechanical engineer, and he has kayaked, so he thinks he was an Olympic athlete,” according to Gosselin’s order.

Dr. Denis Zavodny, however, did feel that Burchardt was competent to stand trial after a June 2022 evaluation lasting more than two hours. Burchardt understood the different players in a courtroom setting, though he was initially confused about the roles of the judge versus a jury, according to Gosselin’s order.

“Dr. Zavody had to provide some education about the plea of insanity because initially, (Burchardt) ‘was under the impression that he had already been civilly committed as not guilty by reason of insanity,’” according to Gosselin’s order. “... Additionally, Dr. Zavodny wrote in his report that (Burchardt) ‘was consistently able to define perjury as lying in the courtroom’ after Dr. Zavodny educated him.”

After considering the doctors’ testimony, Gosselin ruled that Burchardt has an “imperfect and superficial level of understanding of the court proceedings and his condition as it relates to the proceedings against him.”