A triple-murder case suspended multiple times over concerns about the mental health of the defendant who once unsuccessfully tried to plead guilty to the killing of two homeless men is once again back in Orange County Superior Court, with a judge having recently determined Marvin Magallanes is now mentally competent to stand trial.
In the nearly four years since Magallanes was first committed to a mental facility, he has moved between Patton State Hospital and the Orange County Jail multiple times while attorneys and judges weighed whether he was capable of standing trial.
Late last month, Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger, after listening to courtroom testimony, ruled that Magallanes, now 30, is indeed competent to stand trial, court records show, though she also found that he is not capable of serving as his own attorney.
Authorities say Magallanes, on May 12, 2017, walked into the Anaheim Police Department and confessed to killing a homeless man, 49-year-old Sabah Alsaad. Investigators had already tied Alsaad’s killing to the earlier slaying of Onosai Tavita, 52, another homeless man.
During one of his early court appearances, Magallanes tried to plead guilty to the two murders but a judge raised doubts about his mental competency and instead ordered the first of what would be many mental-health evaluations.
Weeks after his arrest, Magallanes was accused of strangling his cellmate, Danny Pham. The jailhouse killing raised questions about why Pham, a non-violent car thief, was sharing a cell with someone authorities describe as an admitted double-murderer, though a District Attorney’s Office investigation cleared jailhouse deputies of criminal culpability related to that death.
In July of 2018, a judge determined that Magallanes was not mentally fit to stand trial, citing doctors’ reports that found Magallanes was “mentally disordered” and in need of treatment.
A brother has said Magallanes struggled with substance abuse and depression and wavering mental health. In an interview with The Orange County Register years ago, Magallanes’ brother said the defendant would “imagine things” and “hallucinate about stuff that wasn’t there.” Magallanes also landed in headlines for crashing his car into Kylie Jenner’s home in Calabasas.
Over the past several years, judges on several occasions have found that Magallanes had become competent to stand trial.
Within a short period of time, concerns about his mental health would once again arise, though, leading to more competency hearings. At one point, a judge authorized the involuntary administration of anti-psychotic medication that Magallanes had been prescribed if he refused to take it, court records show.
Wednesday morning, Magallanes briefly appeared in a Santa Ana courtroom, agreeing to continue his hearing on the three murder charges to April 1.
If convicted as charged, he faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Source: Orange County Register