Charged Santa Fe High gunman to remain in state hospital for another year

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2019 file photo, Dimitrios Pagourtzis is escorted by Galveston County Sheriff's Office deputies into a courtroom at the Galveston County Courthouse in Galveston, Texas. Nick Poehl, one of Pagourtzis attorneys, says Pagourtzis, charged in a mass shooting at a Texas high school last year, has been declared incompetent to stand trial by three experts. Poehl said Monday, Nov. 4 a formal court order declaring him incompetent was expected later this week. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP, File) (Jennifer Reynolds)

The teen accused of killing 10 students and educators during a shooting rampage in May 2018 will remain at the maximum security North Texas State Hospital in Vernon for up to 12 months. Dimitrios Pagourtzis was first found incompetent to stand trial in November 2019 after a trio of mental health experts determined he could not aid in his own defense.

Initially, Galveston County Judge John Ellisor ordered Pagourtzis committed for a period of no longer than 120 days with the goal of doctors restoring his competency. Court records show as that period of time was ending, doctors at the hospital informed the court Pagourtzis’ competency was not likely to be restored within the next 90 days. At that time Judge Ellisor extended his initial order for up to 12 months.

On Tuesday, KPRC 2 Investigates learned doctors have again informed the court Pargourtzis’ competency has still not been restored. Judge Ellisor is expected to sign another order for Pagourtzis to remain at North Texas State Hospital for 12 more months.

“The Court recently received, and transmitted to the State and Defense, a report from the North Texas State Hospital that Dimitrios Pagourtzis remains incompetent to stand trial. Subject to the provisions of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, this requires that he be recommitted for an additional period up to 12 months as the State’s doctors continue to try to restore him to competency. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the entire staff of North Texas State Hospital, who have labored under very difficult pandemic conditions over the last year to restore our client to competency so that he can stand trial,” defense attorney Nick Poehl wrote in a statement to KPRC 2.

The husband of educator Glenda Ann Perkins, who was killed during the rampage, told KPRC 2 he was called this morning by the Galveston County DA’s Office and informed of the decision.

“The laws need to change for victims rights,” said Steve Perkins.

Flo Rice, a substitute teacher critically wounded in the attack, also spoke with KPRC 2 about the decision for Pagourtzis to remain hospitalized.

“His being truly incompetent is difficult to fathom. I remember watching him on the court screen laughing and talking with his attorney. Hearing this news just makes the constant nightmare all that more vivid,” Rice wrote.

“It’s another dark day for justice in Texas when you can plan a mass murder and carry it out with devastating results and laugh in the face of the victims and not have to stand trial,” wrote Rice’s husband, Scot.

Pagourtzis was 17 at the time he was charged with walking into Santa Fe High school and opening fire on his classmates and teachers. Eight students and two educators were killed and 13 others wounded. Pagourtzis’ is also facing federal charges related to the shooting. However, since Pagourtzis is still considered a juvenile in federal court, the details of the charges remain sealed.

In state court, Pagourtzis is considered an adult but his age at the time of the shooting prevents him from receiving either the death penalty or life without parole. Pagourtzis defense attorney successfully won a change of venue for the trial, citing intense pre-trial publicity. The case was scheduled for trial in Fort Bend county in February of 2020, but was postponed after Pagourtzis was found incompetent.

If Pagourtzis’ competency is eventually restored, then a new trial date can be set.