A man accused of pelting several churches in Buffalo, Minn., with rocks and leaving behind posters with offensive messages about homosexuality is mentally incompetent and cannot stand trial, a judge has ruled.
Wade E. Murray, 30, who lives about halfway between Buffalo and Rockford, "was deemed incompetent to proceed with his case" and was moved Wednesday from the county jail to a state-run mental health treatment facility, said Assistant Wright County Attorney Elizabeth Larson, who is prosecuting the case.
Police said Murray told them that God and Jesus were talking to him and encouraging his actions.
A second competency hearing is set for May 29, when his ability to stand trial will be reviewed again by Judge Elizabeth Strand, Larson said Thursday.
Depending on Murray's progress with mental health treatment, these legal extensions can stretch up to three years, but Larson said that final decisions typically come within a year to 18 months.
"Everyone is in pretty good agreement that Mr. Murray is [dealing with] a mental illness," said Larson, who declined to specify that illness. "He was unable to understand the proceedings to go forward."
Murray was charged in Wright County District Court with felony vandalism in connection with the targeting of the churches in late September. Authorities estimated damage to the churches at more than $7,500.
Police said doors and windows were broken Sept. 24 at four church buildings -- St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Seventh-day Adventist, Hosanna Lutheran (Missouri Synod) and Buffalo United Methodist.
Inflammatory messages on posters dealing with religion and sexual orientation were left starting two days earlier at two of those churches -- St. Francis and Hosanna Lutheran -- and two others, Zion Lutheran and Buffalo Presbyterian.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482