Mental fitness hearing set for alleged killer

A Ka‘u woman accused of killing a 21-year-old woman in 2009 will appear in court next month to determine whether she is fit to stand trial.

Patricia Wong, 58, was charged with second-degree murder in 2016 after being arrested in Las Vegas in connection with the killing of Kaycee Maile Smith in Puna.

Smith was found dead June 23, 2009, in an Orchidland residence where she lived alone. A handgun was found at the scene, and an autopsy determined that she died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

Court documents filed at the time suggested that the scene had been manipulated to make Smith’s death appear to be a suicide.

Nearly seven years later, a Hilo grand jury indicted Wong, and U.S. Marshals apprehended her in Las Vegas.

Wong pleaded not guilty to the charge in 2016, and a trial date was set for early 2017.

Since then, the case has been continually delayed by procedural questions. Most recently, in January, an attorney for the state filed a motion asking the court to determine whether a phone call between Wong and an acquaintance in 2009 that was recorded without her knowledge can be admissible as evidence.

At the February hearing about that motion, the court ordered a mental health examination of Wong to determine her fitness to stand trial.

On Friday, Wong did not appear in court, but her attorney, Brian De Lima, said at least one of the three mental health reports on Wong concluded that she is not fit to proceed to trial.

The hearing to determine Wong’s fitness is scheduled for July 15. According to state court records, a jury trial for the case is still set for Aug. 10.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

— to www.hawaiitribune-herald.com

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