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Monday, July 7, 2014

Judge to decide if woman accused of Hollis home invasion is competent to stand trial

NASHUA – The state’s chief forensic examiner said a woman facing attempted murder charges following a May 2013 home invasion in Hollis is competent to stand trial. Whether or not a judge agrees remains to be seen.

Dr. Daniel Comiskey said he suspects that Cynthia Nagele, 58, of Lowell, Mass., was having more struggles with depression and anxiety when her lawyers filed a motion in April stating their concerns about her ability to understand and retain vital information about her case. ...

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NASHUA – The state’s chief forensic examiner said a woman facing attempted murder charges following a May 2013 home invasion in Hollis is competent to stand trial. Whether or not a judge agrees remains to be seen.

Dr. Daniel Comiskey said he suspects that Cynthia Nagele, 58, of Lowell, Mass., was having more struggles with depression and anxiety when her lawyers filed a motion in April stating their concerns about her ability to understand and retain vital information about her case.

Since then Nagele has received mental health treatment and medication and can communicate sufficiently with her lawyers and consider her options and legal rights, Comiskey testified at Hillsborough County Superior Court Tuesday.

“I got the impression I was meeting with someone who was a moving target,” Comiskey said. “She gave me the impression that she is an intelligent individual and can be thoughtful about things.”

Nagele is charged with trying to kill the resident of a trailer on Mooar Hill Road in Hollis on May 17, 2013. She is accused of breaking into the trailer and assaulting the man inside with a knife and hammer.

Two Massachusetts men are facing less serious charges from the same incident.

Comiskey said Tuesday it’s not surprising Nagele suffers from depression and anxiety given the gravity of the charges she faces. The attempted murder charge carries a possible life sentence. He said her ability to deal with those emotions has improved since entering treatment, along with her ability to concentrate and retain information during discussions with her attorneys.

He did caution that as a resolution to her case draws nearer, be it in the form of a plea deal or trial, those consequences will still be stressful and her competency could be endangered.

“I would still maintain a concern about her safety because of that,” Comiskey said. “I would have some concerns about the stability of Ms. Nagele’s improvement as things change.”

Comiskey told Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Michele Battaglia that modifying Nagele’s bail conditions so she can leave the state and live with her family would likely make it easier for her to cope with the stress of her case.

One of Nagele’s defense attorneys, public defender Amanda Steenhuis asked Comiskey whether he had concerns about some confusion about some of her constitutional rights Nagele had during her evaluation since she had already discussed them several times with her attorneys.

“But there’s a difference now,” Comiskey said. “She’s in treatment. She’s progressed in treatment and that in and of itself is a support. So she’s in a different place now.”

Steenhuis and public defender Eleftheria Keans filed a motion in April after they noticed Nagele’s growing difficulty processing and retaining information as they talked to her about accepting a plea bargain or going to trial, according to their motion.

“Counsel isn’t sure if Ms. Nagele’s struggles with comprehension are due to the nature of the conversations, undiagnosed mental health issues, or both,” according to the motion.

The defense attorneys have also filed motions indicating they may use claims of self-defense or the state’s stand-your-ground law at trial, according to court documents.

Nagele’s trial was scheduled to begin with jury selection on May 5. She is free on $50,000 bail, according to court documents.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).