By N. T. “Noble” Butler
After 10 months in a mental hospital, the accused killer of a prominent East Palo Alto community leader and former San Quentin inmate has been deemed competent to stand trial for the 2010 murder.
A San Mateo judge ruled in July 2011 that Gregory Elarms, 59, from Pittsburg, was mentally incompetent to face trial for the murder of David Lewis.
Elarms was sent to Napa State Hospital for treatment. Two doctors at the state mental facility reported in May 2012 that Elarms was now competent to stand trial.
This determination opens the door for San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe to proceed with the criminal case against Elarms.
Elarms is accused of shooting Lewis, his childhood friend, in a parking lot of the Hillsdale Shopping Mall in San Mateo on June 6, 2011.
After his parole from San Quentin State Prison, Lewis became a community leader, drug counselor and motivational speaker. He founded Free At Last, a drug treatment program in the heart of the city that at one time was called the “murder capital” of the country. Lewis also helped to create the “Breaking Barriers” cognitive behavior program that is used widely throughout the California prison system and in other states.
Lewis’ murder went unsolved for six months until Elarms implicated himself in the shooting, authorities said. Elarms told investigators he believed Lewis had turned against him, but that was not true “as far as police can tell,” prosecutor Al Giannini said.
Elarms is facing charges of murder, weapons violations and laying in wait, a special circumstance. Elarms faces a maximum sentence of life without parole because prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.