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Long IslandCrime

Judge rules suspect in triple Hempstead slaying is unfit to stand trial

Bobby Vanderhall leaves Nassau County police headquarters in

Bobby Vanderhall leaves Nassau County police headquarters in Mineola on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A judge ruled Tuesday that the man facing murder charges in the August triple slaying in Hempstead of his mother, sister and a family friend needs psychiatric treatment and isn’t fit to stand trial.

Bobby Vanderhall, now 35, was arrested hours after police say he killed the three women in an Aug. 12 knife and hammer attack inside his family’s Perry Street home.

Authorities identified the homicide victims as Vanderhall’s mother, Lynn Vanderhall, 58, his sister, Melissa Vanderhall, 29, and Melissa’s friend, Janel Simpson, 29, of Uniondale.

A grand jury indicted Vanderhall on charges of first- and second-degree murder, criminally possessing a hammer and knives, and attempted murder and assault related to his alleged attack on another friend of his sister, Candace Murray, 29.

Murray was able to escape the home and flag down a passerby who called for help, police said.

Vanderhall’s private defense attorney, Derrick Magwood, said Tuesday after acting state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Harrington’s ruling that his client, who suffers from mental illness, would go to a state psychiatric facility and get treatment until he is able to go to trial.

“The facility stays in contact with the court and when they see that he is able to understand what’s going on and to proceed and help in his own defense, then the case would continue,” the Mineola lawyer said.

Magwood called the outcome “hard to deal with” for relatives of the defendant because, as of now, there is “no ending to the case.”

The attorney added: “I think they realized he has some severe issues, but you don’t know the extent of them, so they were supportive of trying to help him as much as they could.”

Nassau district attorney’s office spokesman Brendan Brosh said in a statement that three separate psychologists found Vanderhall not competent to stand trial, and prosecutors had no reason to contest the findings.

“Once doctors determine that he is competent to stand trial, we will proceed accordingly,” he added.

A state Office of Mental Health official said such defendants who are held in state facilities get treatment aimed at restoring competency that includes medication management and educational programming, and are continuously evaluated in terms of their fitness to stand trial.

Police said at the time of Vanderhall’s arrest he had a history of “emotional issues,” and that his mother — who had an order of protection against him — had recently kicked him out of the house.

Court records show Vanderhall admitted to the killings and the attempted slaying shortly after he was taken into custody, telling police he first used a hammer and screwdriver to break into the house before using a hammer in the killings.

Vanderhall also told police his mother “was still being mean to me after I hit her with the hammer,” talking to him “like when I was a kid,” before he stabbed her with kitchen knives, court records also say.

Family and friends said Lynn Vanderhall spent three decades as a nursery school teacher and her daughter, Melissa, played volleyball at University of Tampa before becoming a physician assistant at a Bronx hospital.

They said Simpson, a high school friend of Melissa’s, had attended SUNY Buffalo State before working as a medical company secretary.

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