The mental competency trial of Billy Ray Waldon, a suspect in three slayings including those of a Del Mar mother and her teen-age daughter, got under way Tuesday with psychiatric testimony.
The proceedings are separate from the murder charges Waldon faces in which he could get the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder with special circumstances.
Waldon’s attorneys feel he is not mentally competent to stand trial for the slayings, and the jury trial in San Diego Superior Court is focusing solely on the competency issue.
Waldon is accused of shooting Dawn Ellerman, 42, in the neck in her Del Mar home Dec. 7, 1985. Her 13-year-old daughter, Erin, was killed in a fire at the home believed set to cover up the mother’s killing.
Waldon, 35, of San Diego, is also charged with shooting Charles Wells, 59, to death Dec. 20, 1985, in San Diego.
If Waldon is found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial, he will be moved to a state mental hospital for treatment until he shows improvement.
The jurors, who were seated Tuesday, do not know what criminal charges Waldon faces.
His attorney, Charles Khoury, told jurors Tuesday that he will present psychiatric testimony to show Waldon is not mentally competent.
The prosecutor, Charles Patrick, will make his opening statement later this week and said he intends to call Waldon as a witness.
Waldon has feuded with his attorneys and has frequently claimed that Khoury and attorney Geraldine Russell do not represent him. He has also refused to wear dress clothes in court, preferring to wear jail clothing.
A Navy psychiatrist, Mohammed Javaid, was the first witness called to testify about Waldon’s mental state in 1983 when he was in the Navy. He said Waldon was discharged because of a mental illness.
“His chief complaint was that he was depressed and he explained that he was depressed all of his life,” Javaid said.
The psychiatrist said Waldon complained of hearing “voices in different languages telling him to hurt himself.”