2011 murder case returns as suspect is found competent

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Frank Schultz
August 14, 2015

JANESVILLE—A 2011 murder case that ended with the defendant being found mentally incompetent is open again after a Rock County judge found he is now competent to assist in his defense.

Keith M. Abbott, 51, of Sturtevant stood mute in Rock County Court on Friday to charges of first-degree intentional homicide and hiding a corpse.

Court Commissioner Larry Barton entered a not-guilty plea on Abbott's behalf.

Abbott did not speak while appearing Friday via video from the Rock County Jail. He displayed apparently involuntary shaking of both arms and made motions as if writing on the palm of his hand.

Abbott is accused of killing Racine resident Kristin Miller, 33. Miller was the mother of his grandchild, and Abbott was having an affair with her, according to a criminal complaint.

Miller was blackmailing him by threatening to tell his wife about the affair, according to the complaint.

Abbott was arrested Jan. 3, 2011, at his home after being missing two days. Blood on his clothing and in his truck matched Miller's, according to the complaint.

Miller's body was found wrapped in plastic in a ravine near Nelson and North Avon Townline roads in southwestern Rock County on Jan. 31, 2011. Miller died of stab wounds, a forensic pathologist concluded.

A Rock County judge found Abbott incompetent to stand trial Feb. 21, 2013, and dismissed the case. A week later, Racine County prosecutors charged Abbott with nine counts of possession of child pornography.

A Racine County judge Sept. 30, 2013, found Abbott competent to stand trial, noting that an expert had found Abbott to be malingering, even though he had been diagnosed with psychoses for which he was taking medicine.

The illness did not interfere with Abbott's ability to stand trial, the judge ruled.

The special prosecutor in the homicide case, Racine County Assistant District Attorney Randall Schneider, then took the competency question to Rock County Court, where Abbott was again found incompetent Dec. 2, 2014, according to court documents.

On Jan. 26, 2015, Schneider again raised the competency issue, and a Racine County judge found Abbot competent.

On May 20, Abbott represented himself in a divorce proceeding in Racine County and was able to describe the property he wanted, according to a motion filed by Schneider.

Schneider on May 21 moved in Rock County Court to have Abbott found competent.

Rock County public defenders Kelly Mattingly and Walter Isaacson wrote in response to Schneider's petition that Abbott continues to experience hallucinations about “John,” whom evaluators have described as Satan.

Abbott believes Miller is still alive and might not defend himself in court, the defense attorneys wrote.

Rock County Judge Kenneth Forbeck on July 10 found Abbott competent.

As he left the courthouse Friday, Schneider told a reporter, “Hopefully, we'll get some closure.”

Judge Michael Haakenson, who replaced Forbeck this month, will handle the case.

After Friday's hearing, Abbot was returned to custody in Racine County, where he is being held on $250,000 cash bond in a child pornography case.

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