Hearing to determine McClain’s competency postponed

Published 3:19 pm Thursday, August 8, 2013

Butler County Sheriff Kenny Harden and District Attorney Charlotte Tesmer announced in December that the BCSO had attested Shawn McClain for the murder of Dorothy Leatherwood. A hearing to determine McClain’s competency to stand trial was postponed Thursday. (File Photo)

Butler County Sheriff Kenny Harden and District Attorney Charlotte Tesmer announced in December that the BCSO had attested Shawn McClain for the murder of Dorothy Leatherwood. A hearing to determine McClain’s competency to stand trial was postponed Thursday. (File Photo)

A hearing to determine the competency of a Georgiana man accused of murder was postponed Thursday.

Second Judicial Circuit Court Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell said the reason for the postponement was “miscommunication” with a witness who failed to show up for the hearing.

The hearing, which will determine if Shawn McClain is mentally competent to stand trial and be eligible for the death penalty, has been rescheduled for Sept. 5.

McClain has been charged with the murder of 72-year-old Dorothy Leatherwood, who was found stabbed to death in her home on Nov. 14, 2012.

During a preliminary hearing in March, the Butler County District Attorney’s Office and the Butler County Sheriff’s Office focused on DNA evidence that they say ties McClain to the murder.

BCSO investigator Sean Klaetsch testified that authorities had found a gray T-shirt stained with what appeared to be blood in a clothes hamper in McClain’s bedroom. The shirt was sent to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences for testing.

“The test revealed that the blood on the shirt was that of Dorothy Leatherwood and that the shirt also had DNA on it belonging to McClain,” Klaetsch said.

Klaetsch said deputies also discovered an envelope with a note written on it on a side table in the living room of Leatherwood’s home that referenced money. He also stated that witnesses had informed authorities that McClain at times worked odd jobs for Leatherwood.

The envelope was sent off to a handwriting expert, along with a sample of McClain’s handwriting, and the expert offered the opinion that the note was written by McClain, according to Klaetsch.

Authorities said that while being interviewed, McClain confessed to being inside Leatherwood’s home and pulling a knife on her, but that he had “blacked out” and did not remember anything after that.

The defense, led by attorney Brandon Sellers, questioned whether or not McClain could have written the note or understood the statement he was giving to authorities based on his mental competency.

Sellers asked Klaetsch if he believed, or was told, that McClain was “mentally retarded.”

“I believe his father said he was slow,” Klaetsch said.

Under cross examination by Sellers, Klaetsch also stated that while the residence was dusted for fingerprints, no useable prints were pulled from the victim’s house, and that knives collected at McClain’s home and tested by the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences could not be connected to the murder.