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Docs: Bike crash suspect had history of mental illness, denied abusing painkillers

Posted at 1:46 PM, Aug 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-31 21:01:19-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The man accused of driving into a group of bicyclists, killing five and seriously injuring four others, had a history of mental illness and denied abusing painkillers prior to the crash, according to a report determining his competency for trial.

Charles Pickett Jr., 50, has been deemed competent to stand trial on charges of second-degree murder, reckless driving causing impairment and driving while intoxicated causing death for the June 7 crash in Kalamazoo County involving nine bicyclists.

He was evaluated by the state’s Center for Forensic Psychiatry at the request of his attorney. FOX 17 obtained a copy of the report from the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office through a Freedom of Information Act request.

A psychologist testified that Pickett is able to “attend to testimony, weigh opinions and make reasoned decisions” in his trial.

Pickett answered his questions succinctly and was polite and cooperative during the evaluation, according to the opinion on competency issued Wednesday in Kalamazoo County District Court.

The 50-year-old was in court Wednesday morning where a judge accepted the center's decision.

At age 26, Pickett said he was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment for three days for evaluation of depression following a motorcycle crash. He also said he underwent mental-health treatment in Battle Creek in 2013 where he was prescribed with "a variety of psychiatric medications," according to the report. However, Pickett's ultimate diagnosis was redacted.

Asked about his history of substance use and abuse, Pickett said he'd been prescribed medication for five years to manage pain but the type of medication was redacted.

Pickett denied abusing any of the medication, contrary to previous testimony provided by Pickett's girlfriend following the crash.

Pickett's truck following crash (Kalamazoo Gazette/MLive)

Pickett's truck following crash (Kalamazoo Gazette/MLive)

In an interview with police, Pickett’s girlfriend said he took around 20 muscle relaxers and 10 pain pills before the crash.

Later during his evaluation Pickett admitted to taking a "handful of sleeping pills at some time prior to the crash," according to to the report.

During his evaluation to determine competency, Pickett also said he began smoking marijuana when he was 9-years-old and smoked "almost every day" before quitting for 10 years, the document said.

Pickett told the doctor he only used hallucinogenic drugs when he was younger and only began using methamphetamine "once in a blue moon" when he was 47- or 48-years-old, according to the evaluation.

Scene of June 7 crash (file)

Scene of June 7 crash (file)

Police previously reported finding marijuana, painkillers and muscle relaxers on Pickett when they arrested him. They also found methamphetamine in his vehicle. Also in the police report, an officer stationed outside Pickett’s hospital room said he overheard him telling doctors he takes meth and marijuana.

During his competency evaluation, Pickett showed no evidence of experiencing thought or mood disorders, the psychologist wrote in the opinion. But she testified that in her interview with Pickett, he did not remember any of the specific details of the crash.

"Mr. Pickett described the memory loss as global, as opposed to fragmented, in form, and indicated he had regained none of the lost memories since the alleged incident," the psychologist wrote.

It was determined by the doctor the memory loss was likely caused by intoxication on prescription medication during the time of the crash. While the memory loss doesn't render Pickett incompetent to stand trial, the doctor said it could "possibly complicate the preparation of a defense."

Pickett is expected back in court on Sept. 21 for a preliminary examination.

**Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Pickett's attorney told the Associated Press his client had taken pain pills and muscle relaxers in the hours before the crash. FOX 17 regrets the error.