LE CENTER — A man accused of murdering his father and burning down their residence outside of Le Center is now competent to stand trial. But he remains civilly committed.
An attorney for Hardy Robert Wills-Traxler, 26, said Friday he plans to mount a mental illness defense.
Wills-Traxler is charged with second-degree murder and arson in the fatal stabbing of his father Bruce Alan Traxler, 64, at their rural Le Sueur residence in January.
Prosecution has been on hold since April when Wills-Traxler was found mentally incompetent to participate in his defense. Earlier this month a psychologist found Wills-Traxler is now competent.
At a review hearing Friday in Le Sueur County District Court, Assistant Attorney General Daniel Vlieger and Assistant Public Defender Richard Ohlenberg said they did not object to the psychologist’s findings.
Judge Patrick Biren then adopted the competency finding, allowing the criminal case to move forward. An omnibus hearing to consider pretrial issues is now scheduled for April 4.
The defendant has separately been civilly committed as mentally ill and dangerous and he will remain at a state hospital until at least mid-March.
Wills-Traxler allegedly told authorities he repeatedly stabbed his father because his father stared at him, they argued and his father hit him in the shoulder, court documents allege.
Wills-Traxler then allegedly washed the blood off his hands, gathered some of his belongings, placed a pillow on a stove burner to star a fire and drove away. A relative saw the fire and called 911. An autopsy found Bruce Traxler died from the stab wounds before the fire engulfed the house.
Before he was arrested, Wills-Traxler reportedly stopped a snowplow driver and later a group of snowmobilers to tell them he had killed his father.
Ohlenberg said Friday he intends to present a mental illness defense. Defendants who are found not guilty because of mental illness are then civilly committed.
Attorneys agreed Friday the same psychologist who conducted the competency evaluations should also conduct the required pretrial evaluation of Wills-Traxler’s mental state.
Court documents indicate evaluators in the criminal case and the civil commitment have agreed Wills-Traxler is mentally ill but have not come to consensus on the nature of the illness.
“This is a unique case in the sense that all the experts and psychiatrists are having difficulty narrowing down a particular diagnosis,” Vlieger said Friday.
The prosecutor requested and the judge granted him access to evaluations conducted in the civil commitment.
A review hearing in the civil commitment is scheduled for March 21. It was supposed to be held this fall but evaluators requested more time to come to a diagnosis.
Wills-Traxler appeared in the virtual criminal case hearing from the Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center wearing a mask and a hooded sweatshirt covering most of his face. When Biren asked him at the end of the hearing if he understood what had transpired, Wills-Traxler gave a thumbs up.