Fernbach now declared competent to stand trial for alleged shooting

Wanda English Burnett

In a surprising turn of events, a Ripley County man has been declared competent in less than five months from the initial findings that he was not competent to stand trial for allegedly shooting two people in Batesville.

James L. Fernbach Jr., 32, of Batesville, was charged with Attempted Murder after he allegedly shot Phillip Cruiser, 56, of Westport and Benjamin Dick, 26, of Batesville, outside a Batesville convenience store on April 4, 2009, with no motive given.

Bail was set for Fernbach at $2 million dollars in Ripley County Circuit Court after Judge Carl Taul heard from both sides about the situation that left two men with gunshot wounds, one critical. At the time, Prosecutor Ric Hertel told The Versailles Republican it was one of the highest bails he had seen set.

Then in October of 2009 a competency hearing was held with testimony from doctors that saw another twist to the case. Fernbach was declared not competent to stand trial and sent to the Logansport State Hospital.

Now, just a few months after that hearing, the defendant has been declared competent and will again be held at the Ripley County Jail until his trial date, which has been set for April 19.

“Given the fact that the court found the defendant incompetent to stand trial based on written reports and testimony from two doctors less than four months ago, I am surprised that the Logansport State Hospital has now determined that Fernbach is competent to stand trial,” noted Prosecutor Ric Hertel. He told the Osgood Journal, “I am interested in reviewing their findings and hope to gain an understanding about what has transpired in the last few months.”

The prosecutor said his office has contacted the victims in this case and will proceed with preparation for trial.

According to Ripley Publishing Co. files, Fernbach noted in court that he didn’t plan the shootings. He was taken into custody initially without incident.