An Arapahoe County District Court judge on Wednesday ruled that Ari Liggett, accused of killing his mother then dismembering her body, is competent to stand trial.
Judge John Wheeler set a preliminary hearing in the first-degree murder case for April 12. His ruling comes after the Colorado State Mental Hospital in Pueblo issued a report on Liggett's competency. The report and the case are under seal.
A competency hearing could have been held, but the defense did not argue against the contents of the report.
"We are not contesting any of the findings," public defender Jennifer Ahnstedt said Wednesday.
Liggett, 24, was arrested by Greenwood Village police in October. He is accused of poisoning his mother, Beverly Liggett, in their Centennial home, dismembering her body then driving around the state with her remains in the back of his vehicle.
After the arrest, Liggett was assessed at the state mental hospital. Liggett's father, Ron, has said his son has a history of mental illness. It is not known whether he continued treatment as he got older.
Wheeler will decide at the preliminary hearing whether there is enough evidence to go to trial. But don't expect the defense to introduce Liggett's mental condition then, said local attorney Dan Recht, who is not involved in the case.
That could come at arraignment, when Liggett would likely make of plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, Recht said. After that, a trial date would be set.
"The defense will argue strenuously he was insane at the time of the act," he said.
The fact that Liggett was found competent to stand trial was not surprising, either, Recht said. "One can be brought to competency through medication even though they might have been insane prior to being medicated and at the time the act was committed."
According to an arrest affidavit, Ari Liggett told police on Oct. 17 that he'd found his mother dead on the floor of their Centennial home and that she'd committed suicide by ingesting potassium cyanide. He said he panicked and tried to put her body in a freezer.
Liggett told authorities he had planned to put her remains in a tub with vinegar and store them in a storage unit "in hopes that police would be unable to identify the prints or dental records," the affidavit said.
Court records said Liggett's mother was concerned about her son when he made a gun silencer and she found him mixing dangerous chemicals. He told police he thought she had left him out of her will.
Also Wednesday, Ahnstedt argued that the prosecution should not get to keep the report on Liggett's mental evaluation by the state hospital because it is only supposed to be used for the evaluation of his mental competency. Wheeler said he would rule on that by Friday.