SALEM — The father of a Boston boy missing since 2008 was declared incompetent Thursday to stand trial in the child’s disappearance, raising the possibility that charges will be dismissed because he has already been in jail for years.
In a 10-minute hearing, Judge Timothy Feeley declared Ernesto L. Gonzalez Jr. incompetent to stand trial on charges of parental kidnapping and misleading investigators, as well as a separate assault and battery case, because of a debilitating mental illness.
Gonzalez, 41, has been in jail or in a secure hospital since the August 2008 disappearance of his son, Giovanni, during a weekend visit with his father in Lynn. Three months after his arrest, Gonzalez confessed to a Globe reporter that he killed the boy. Police later discovered a bloodstained knife, but Gonzalez has never been charged with homicide and Giovanni has not been found.
The brief hearing in Essex Superior Court stood in sharp contrast to the frenzied land and air search for Giovanni just before his first day of kindergarten. But the judge, the prosecutor, and defense lawyer agreed that Gonzalez is unfit for trial after they reviewed multiple medical reports that said Gonzalez rarely answers questions, rants about unrelated matters, and suffers wild delusions about people around him.
Whether Gonzalez may ever face trial is unclear. The defense is pushing to dismiss the charges under a state law that allows dismissal because he is incompetent and has served more than half the maximum sentence he would have received if convicted. But the prosecution says the true extent of Gonzalez’s mental illness is unknown, so it is possible he could improve. A hearing on dismissing the charges is set for Nov. 12.
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