Tyler Daniel Smith

Not guilty by insanity: Stepson pleas to shooting stepfather dead in Casco

By: 
Daniel Pepper, Staff Writer

A man accused of his shooting his stepfather, Robert “Mark” Hill of Casco Township, will be committed to the Michigan Forensic Center after entering a plea in Allegan County Circuit Court.

Tyler Daniel Smith, 28, entered the plea Monday, Oct. 1. The court accepted it and found he was not guilty by reason of insanity of one count of open murder and one count of felony firearms.

The hearing didn’t provide a very clear reason why Smith had shot his stepfather, but the psychologists who interviewed him stated he’d become paranoid and delusional.

“He was increasingly divorced from reality and was frequently obsessed with the belief others would harm him,” Judge Margaret Zuzich Bakker said, reading from a report authored by Michigan Forensic Center staff.

Bakker used the report from the Michigan Forensic Center and a Michigan State Police report to reach her ruling in the hearing.

“I do find both that the defendant committed the acts alleged and the defendant was legally insane at the time of the acts,” Bakker said.

The center wrote the report based on examining Smith and reviewing jail records and prior mental health records.

The doctor’s opinion was that Smith met the legal definition of insanity at the time he shot Hill.

The police report detailed that Hill and Smith’s mother had woken up and seen him parked in their driveway and then invited him inside.

Smith’s mother told police she’d come downstairs and saw her son come inside and walk upstairs to the bedroom where Hill was and then heard the gunshot.

“She heard a gunshot, saw the defendant in the doorway and then saw her husband laying on the floor,” Bakker said.

Smith had told a police officer he’d shot somebody, the report said, and given something of an explanation for the shooting.

“He said he’d thought his stepfather was trying to get his mother to think the wrong things,” Bakker said. “In his interview with the forensic examiner, he told them he didn’t say anything to his stepfather before he shot him.

“He doesn’t remember the previous night and day.”

The report said Smith had told examiners he was receiving coded messages in text messages from his mother and he’d become increasingly paranoid and had more and more violent thoughts.

“He started carrying a gun on his person and thinking of shooting his coworkers,” Bakker said.

Smith, the judge said, also said he believed his mother was somehow in danger from his stepfather.

Smith’s lawyer, Matthew G. Borgula, said he’d discussed the implications of the plea and his rights for a potential trial with his client before entering the plea. Smith appeared via video conference from the Allegan County Jail.

He was found competent to stand trial in March, in a separate process that assesses a defendant’s mental state and capacity to understand the charges against him and participate in his own defense. Competency to stand trial involves the defendant’s mental health status today, not when he committed the crime. Smith has been receiving treatment since his arrest.

After Bakker accepted the plea, she ruled Smith was committed to the Michigan Forensic Center for 60 days. During that time, Allegan County prosecutors will file a petition to have Smith committed indefinitely.

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