An Oklahoma man with a history of mental illness will be allowed to represent himself when he faces murder charges later this year in the killings of a Long Beach woman and her 4-year-old daughter, a judge ruled Thursday.
Brandon Colbert, 23, was arrested last year and charged with using a shotgun to kill Carina Mancera, 26, and her daughter Jenabel Anaya, on Aug. 9, 2016. The Tulsa native had traveled to California for the first time just days before the shootings. Investigators have not revealed a motive in the slayings.
Colbert's mental competence has been a central issue in court proceedings this year, with the defendant trafficking in bizarre conspiracy theories while representing himself during preliminary hearings.
Medical records obtained by the Los Angeles Times this year showed Colbert was previously diagnosed with schizophreniform disorder, meaning he was presenting symptoms of schizophrenia, but not for the six-month period necessary for a formal diagnosis. Doctors in Oklahoma also feared Colbert had been abusing K2, or "spice," a synthetic cannabinoid that can exacerbate underlying symptoms of mental illness and that has been linked to violent outbursts.
In May, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Jesse Rodriguez found Colbert incompetent to stand trial, citing a nine-page medical report. Rodriguez ordered that Colbert be admitted to a state hospital for treatment.
On Thursday, he ruled Colbert was competent both to stand trial and to act as his own attorney, said Greg Risling, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
A tentative trial date has been set for December, Risling said.
Defense attorney Jason Sias, who had been hired by Colbert's family in Oklahoma, said the judge urged Colbert not to represent himself while delivering his latest ruling. Pointing to Colbert's history of mental illness, Sias said he did not believe the defendant should act as his own attorney.
"Today he might seem OK, but during the time period of this trial, he may have a lapse where he can't understand what is going on," Sias said.
On Aug. 9, 2016, prosecutors allege, Colbert emerged from a hiding spot near 9th Street and Locust Avenue in Long Beach and leveled a shotgun at Mancera, her longtime boyfriend, Luis Anaya, and their daughter, Jenabel. Mancera died at the scene, and the young girl succumbed to her injuries at a hospital a short time later. Anaya escaped uninjured.
Colbert was linked to the crime through DNA found on a spent shotgun shell. He was charged with two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder last November. Prosecutors announced this year that they would not seek the death penalty, without giving a reason for that decision.
During a series of court hearings this year, Colbert has demanded to act as his own attorney over the objections of his relatives and other attorneys hired by his family.
He has denied involvement in the shootings and raised strange conspiracy theories in his defense. At one point, he claimed his victims were actually still alive. He has also insisted he is being framed and made repeated references to the 1997 film "Gang Related," the plot of which centers on two corrupt police officers framing a homeless man for murder.
Prosecutors also questioned Colbert's decision to represent himself in a court filing this year, asking Rodriguez to determine whether Colbert was competent to act as his own attorney. In the filing, prosecutors did not suggest Colbert was incompetent to be tried for the murders, court records show.
Colbert has not raised insanity as a possible defense.