New evaluations for local man accused of killing neighbor because of politics

Evaluators differ on opinions that Butler County suspect has been restored to competency.

Austin Combs has been assessed eight times by forensic psychologists and has spent months in a Cincinnati treatment facility, but there remains no conclusion about what should happen to the man accused gunning down his Morgan Twp. neighbor in November 2022.

Combs, 28, was arrested was arrested hours after the fatal shooting on Nov. 5, 2022, in Okeana, and he was indicted for aggravated murder a week later. Anthony Lee King, 43, died of multiple gunshot wounds in his yard that neighbored Combs’ residence. King was doing yard work at the time he was shot, according to investigators.

Since his arrest, Combs was declared incompetent, refused medication to restore competence then was restored to competency for trial, but that designation was questioned by the defense, beginning a new round of evaluations.

He was back Monday in Butler County Common Pleas Court, where a third round of evaluations was ordered. The time is also ticking the prosecution’s burden to restore Combs to competency, although there is also dispute on that time line complicated by defense motions.

Combs remains at Summit Behavioral Health in Cincinnati for treatment and is scheduled to be back in court April 15 for a review hearing.

Assistant Butler County Prosecutor Katie Pridemore said the staff at Summit indicate Combs is competent, but other evaluators disagree.

In March 2023, Judge Michael Oster Jr. first declared Combs incompetent to stand trial after reviewing evaluations from two forensic psychologists. He was deemed restorable with treatment.

While being treated at Summit, Combs refused medication prescribed by doctors to restore his competency.

Prosecutors filed a motion asking the judge to authorize forced medication treatment for Combs. The defense team opposed the measure, arguing doctors at Summit had a large list of medications they want authorized, some of which may have side effects, and they were not sure of Combs’ diagnosis.

During the August hearing, a doctor treating Combs testified when Combs began refusing medication after being at the facility about four weeks, he got worse. He had been given multiple opportunities to take the medicines, but refused.

Oster ordered forced medication for Combs but issued specific guidelines in the ruling.

The judge’s ruling was a final appealable order, which meant it could be appealed straight to the 12th District Court of Appeals before the case moved any further. That is what defense attorney Chris Pagan did within days of the ruling.

So, unless Combs agreed to take his medication, the Summit staff could not treat him until the appellate court ruled.

But according to prosecutors, Combs did agree to take his medication, restoring his competency. The defense disputes the restoration.

According to Butler County Sheriff’s Office detectives, Combs admitted to shooting King in the yard of his Chapel Road residence “several times with a revolver.”

Family members called 911 after hearing shots and finding King in the backyard unresponsive and bleeding. A family member told the dispatcher a neighbor had confronted King before about perceived political affiliation.

The victim’s wife told the dispatcher they were cutting grass and working in the yard when she came inside to let the dog out. That’s when she heard gunshots, she said.

“I look in the backyard and that man is walking away from my husband, and my husband is on the ground,” the woman said. “He has come over like four times confronting my husband because he thought he was a Democrat. Why, why? … Please, I don’t understand.”

Combs has violent past, according to prosecutors. Court documents say that while Combs was not convicted of assault on his father, he admitted to the incident during questioning with police, and his father corroborated.

“While is it is true that it does not appear that Combs is on probation or any form of supervision, there is evidence that Combs has been violent with a deadly weapon in the past,” Pridemore said in court documents. “Although not convicted, Combs did admit in his interview to law enforcement to stabbing his father in the stomach in 2017. Combs’ father corroborated this stabbing by stating in his interview that Combs stabbed him because he didn’t like the woman the father was seeing at the same time.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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