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Man Held in Deaths of 2 Universal Studios Guards : Murder Defendant Ruled Competent for Trial

June 28, 1989|MICHAEL CONNELLY | Times Staff Writer

A former mental patient accused of shooting to death two Universal Studios security guards that he believed were Nazis is competent to stand trial, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.

After reviewing a report from a court-appointed psychiatrist, Judge Florence Bernstein ruled that Nathan Trupp, 43, has been restored to competency with the use of psychotropic drugs and will be able to assist in his defense.

"The defendant is presently competent to stand trial," Bernstein said.

However, the judge said Trupp's grasp of competency was "fairly tenuous" and she ordered that he be closely monitored while in the Los Angeles County Jail to be sure that he takes the drugs ordered by psychiatrists.

Bernstein ordered Trupp to be arraigned on first-degree murder charges July 5. A preliminary hearing will be scheduled after Trupp pleads to charges that he fatally shot Jeren Beeks, 27, and Armando Torres, 18, on Dec. 1 at the main gate to Universal Studios.

Turned Away

The two unarmed security guards were shot moments after they had turned Trupp away from the gate. Authorities said Trupp had walked up to the gate and asked to see actor Michael Landon.

Trupp is also accused of shooting three people to death in an Albuquerque, N.M., bagel shop two days before the Universal Studios slayings. After the five slayings, he told investigators and psychiatrists that he believed that the victims were Nazis who were conspiring against him.

The Los Angeles case against Trupp will proceed before he faces charges in New Mexico, authorities said.

Trupp, in yellow fatigues worn by prisoners housed in the County Jail's ward for the mentally ill, was in Superior Court for the brief competency hearing Tuesday. He only spoke once--to tell the judge in which jail ward he was being kept. The bearded suspect's right arm, which was wounded during a brief gun battle with a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy during his capture, was wrapped in plastic and is still healing.

Trupp was found incompetent to stand trial in February and was sent to Patton State Hospital, a facility in San Bernardino County for the criminally insane. Last month, psychiatrists at Patton certified that Trupp was competent and ready to go to trial.

New Evaluation

He was then examined by Dr. Kaushal K. Sharma, one of two independent psychiatrists who had earlier found Trupp incompetent. Sharma's new evaluation, which was not released to the public, said Trupp was competent.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Linda B. Greenberg said the improvement in Trupp's mental state between the two evaluations was the result of the use of the psychotropic drugs.

"At Patton, he was given medication to restore his competency," she said.

Deputy Public Defender Philomene Swenson said the drugs Trupp is taking allow him to speak rationally with his attorneys and to make decisions concerning his defense. She would not identify the drugs used but said Trupp is willingly taking them.

"He is ready to go back to criminal court," Swenson said. "I think he is rationally able to cooperate with counsel and able to discuss things that he was too sick to discuss before."

Swenson declined to say whether Trupp would plead not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges but did say, "Nathan is mentally ill."

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