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Accused killer of six collapses in court

Falls to floor twice as prosecutor reads out details

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Ronald Lee Haskell is helped after he collapsed in a Houston courtroom Friday.

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Ronald Lee Haskell is helped after he collapsed in a Houston courtroom Friday.

HOUSTON -- A man accused of killing six members of his ex-wife's family, including four children, after forcing his way into their suburban Houston home collapsed in court twice Friday as a prosecutor read out details of the crime.

A shackled Ronald Lee Haskell was standing before a state district judge during a probable-cause hearing when he fell to the floor. Deputies lifted him to his feet and the 33-year-old Haskell stood for about another minute before collapsing again.

He was then lifted into a chair and wheeled from the courtroom.

"His face, he obviously lost blood in his face, and his knees buckled," said Haskell's attorney, Doug Durham. "He's scared. I think he has a limited mental capacity of what's going on."

Before the collapses, Haskell had acknowledged with a quiet "Yes" a couple of questions put to him by State District Judge Mark Kent Ellis about his legal rights. Ellis ordered Haskell held without bond.

"Maybe reality is finally setting in," said Tammy Thomas, the lead Harris County assistant district attorney in the case. "It's not television, this is not fiction. He is facing his consequences."

Thomas said she expected a grand jury to issue a capital murder indictment as a result of Wednesday's fatal shootings of Stephen and Katie Stay and four of their children, ranging in age from four to 14.

Authorities have said Haskell was searching for his ex-wife, Katie Stay's sister, when he came to the home.

He tied up the family and put them face-down on the floor before shooting each in the back of the head, investigators said. The family had refused to say where Haskell could find his ex-wife.

The couple's 15-year-old daughter, Cassidy Stay, survived by playing dead after she was shot and told police Haskell was planning to shoot other relatives, court documents say. She suffered a fractured skull when a bullet grazed her head but was able to call police and provide Haskell's identity and description.

In a statement Friday, Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital reported Cassidy was discharged Friday "in good condition." The hospital said she's "expected to make a full recovery."

Police located Haskell's car and took him into custody after a three-hour standoff.

Durham, appointed by the court to represent Haskell, said his focus will be Haskell's mental condition "and whether he was legally responsible at the time of his conduct."

"I think the evidence is going to show... he is a troubled individual and he has a history of mental illness," Durham said. "Unfortunately, the delivery of the health care has failed in this system."

Thomas said that strategy was not surprising, "because there aren't many explanations otherwise for him to grasp." But she said the probable cause in the case showed a "determined effort involved, the planning, the conscious decisions."

She said she would present evidence to a grand jury to seek a capital murder indictment and a decision on the death penalty would be made later by elected District Attorney Devon Anderson.

A divorce decree issued in February shows Haskell and Melanie Kaye Haskell were married in California in 2002. They separated in 2013.


-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 12, 2014 A23

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