An unemployed West Roxbury man, charged with stabbing and beating a neighbor to death just days before Thanksgiving, was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation and will continue to be held without bail, after appearing in court Friday.
Nathurlon Jones Munnerlyn, who weighs 315 pounds and stands 6 feet 5 inches tall, is accused of killing fellow West Roxbury resident Brian M. Sweeney, 40, who was 8 inches shorter and approximately 125 pounds lighter. Sweeney was found dead in his second-floor apartment on Temple Street in West Roxbury just before sunrise Sunday morning.
At a court hearing in West Roxbury Municipal Court, psychologist Helene Presskreisher said she had questions about Munnerlyn’s competency to stand trial. Presskreisher said he was unwilling to fully answer questions from her or his court-appointed counsel and did not appear to understand the gravity of the situation. She also noted he has a past criminal record, including a case in another state where he was found incompetent to be tried.
Judge David Breen agreed to send Munnerlyn to Bridgewater State Hospital, a prison that handles inmates with psychological issues, for further evaluation. A new hearing was tentatively scheduled for Dec. 11. No plea has yet been entered in the case, and his court-appointed defense attorney did not object to his being held without bail for now.
The office of the chief medical examiner determined the death was a homicide, listing the cause of death as “sharp force trauma,” according to a police incident report made available in court documents Friday.
The Boston police report suggests Munnerlyn either confessed or made statements implicating himself in the crime.
Police wrote that they questioned Munnerlyn on Wednesday afternoon at his home on Spring Street in West Roxbury. The report said they identified him as the person who killed Sweeney as a result of a statement he made during the interview. He was arrested that afternoon.
Investigators found what appeared to be cocaine at the murder scene and a bag containing a white powder in a dresser drawer in the apartment. The two men lived just one-tenth of a mile apart. A spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney declined to discuss a possible motive for the killing, saying it is still under investigation.
A Boston Globe Spotlight Team report last year found at least 10 percent of homicides in Massachusetts from 2005 to 2015 were committed by people with clear symptoms or a history of mental illness, a sign of the state’s failure to provide help for people with the most severe mental health problems.
Munnerlyn, wearing a red T-shirt, interrupted the court proceedings Friday to demand he be appointed a new lawyer.
“I don’t know this attorney, “ he told Breen, referring to the attorney, Tim Bradl of Boston. “I don’t trust him, and I would like to be appointed another attorney.”
Breen told Munnerlyn that he has a right to a public attorney because he is considered indigent, but not to the attorney of his choice. Bradl, the defense attorney, declined to say how often this happens or provide more details about his client’s criminal record.
Some of the victim’s family attended the hearing but declined to comment afterward.