Man accused of killing Stanislaus deputy is fit to face charges, psychologist says

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson discusses arrest of shooting suspect

Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson talks about the arrest of David Machado, who is suspected of killing deputy Dennis Wallace in Hughson, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.
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Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson talks about the arrest of David Machado, who is suspected of killing deputy Dennis Wallace in Hughson, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016.

A forensic psychologist on Friday testified that David Machado is mentally fit to face criminal charges in the death of Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Wallace, who was shot in 2016 while checking on a reported stolen vehicle.

The criminal case against Machado has remained suspended for nearly two years since Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff determined the defendant needed treatment to restore his mental competency. The case cannot proceed until the judge is certain Machado understands the court proceedings and can assist his attorneys in his own legal defense.

Judge Zeff on Friday heard testimony from Caroline Goldsmith, a forensic psychologist at Atascadero State Hospital in San Luis Obispo County. On July 23, 2018, she conducted a 90-minute mental evaluation on Machado, who has been diagnosed with delusional disorder.

Goldsmith said psychiatric medication has targeted Machado’s many symptoms. She told the judge that she concluded that Machado is mentally competent to face his charges, and he was able to rationally understand his case and the court proceedings.

David Machado, defendant in the 2016 shooting death of Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Dennis Wallace. Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department

The psychologist said that Machado expressed a great trust in his attorneys, and he told her that he would rely on his attorneys to form a legal strategy in his case.

“He was very motivated to get back to court with his attorneys,” Goldsmith said.

The psychologist also testified that Machado’s extensive delusional belief system has largely remitted, but not entirely. She said she didn’t know which delusions will reappear.

“(The delusions) may never completely disappear,” Goldsmith said in court.

Machado, 40, is charged with murder in Wallace’s death. The deputy was fatally shot shortly before 8:30 a.m. Nov. 13, 2016, after he spotted a stolen van at the Fox Grove Fishing Access near Hughson.

Dennis Wallace
Deputy Dennis Wallace Stanislaus County Sheriff SCSD

Wallace, 53, was a 20-year Sheriff’s Department veteran, assigned to Salida, the courthouse and Hughson.

On Friday morning, Goldsmith was questioned by Deputy District Attorney John Mayne, who is prosecuting the case. The psychologist was cross-examined by Machado’s court-appointed attorney, Deputy Public Defender Marlon Simon.

“Star Wars” delusion

Goldsmith said in court that Machado had a lengthy “laundry list” of specific delusions he has exhibited in the past, including claiming to have invented “Star Wars,” saying the government was stealing from him, fearing people were trying to poison him, worrying that Stanislaus County officials were targeting him and that he passed the state Bar Exam at the age of 14.

The psychologist testified that Machado told her he used to believe some of these delusions, but he wasn’t worried about them anymore. Goldsmith said she does not think the delusions he has will prevent him from understanding the case and assisting his attorneys.

“I would acknowledge that I’m evaluating his ability to work with his attorneys,” Goldsmith said during cross-examination.

As part of her evaluation, Goldsmith reviewed Machado’s medical and legal records. She testified that she went over the criminal charges with Machado, and the potential pleas in such a case.

She discussed with Machado the trial phase, the penalty phase and the not guilty by reason of insanity plea. Goldsmith said she did not discuss with Machado the defendant’s version of the murder case, but Machado told her that he would be willing to discuss that with his attorneys.

Testimony in Machado’s mental competency hearing is expected to continue Jan. 25. It was unclear Friday whether the judge will issue a ruling then.

Death penalty

Machado’s murder charge comes with a special-circumstance allegation that makes the case eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors have not informed the court whether they will seek it. Machado also is charged with first-degree robbery, carjacking and being a felon in possession of a gun.

The carjacking charge stems from an incident in Keyes about 10 minutes after Wallace’s shooting. A white Kia was carjacked. Machado was then identified as the suspect. Authorities issued an alert asking people to look for the car, a Kia Rio, and a statewide manhunt ensued. Machado was captured several hours later in Tulare County.

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Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.