Jury to decide Modesto murder defendant’s mental competency

A judge has scheduled a mental competency trial next month for a Modesto man accused of murder in a suspected drunken driving crash.

A jury will decide whether Rigoberto Ramirez Aleman, 32, will be sent to a state mental health facility to restore his competency before he can face criminal charges. Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Rick Distaso scheduled the competency trial to begin July 21.

Forensic psychologist Phil Trompetter has evaluated Aleman and determined the defendant is not mentally fit to face charges. The psychologist has submitted his report to the court.

Deputy Public Defender Greg Spiering has given the prosecutor additional information about Aleman’s past that might be relevant to the issue of the defendant’s mental competence.

Deputy District Attorney Anthony Colacito requested the trial, so he can question Trompetter about his findings and anyone else with information relevant to Aleman’s mental health.

If the jury decides Aleman is mentally fit, his criminal case will proceed. The case, which is suspended, has not reached the preliminary hearing phase to determine whether there’s sufficient evidence for Aleman to stand trial as charged.

The defendant is charged with murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, along with misdemeanor driving without a valid license, in the death last year of John Bixby, 38, of San Mateo.

The fatal crash occurred about 2:10 p.m. Oct. 19 at 12th and L streets in downtown Modesto. Aleman was driving a Chevrolet Malibu when he ran a stop sign and crashed into an Audi driven by Bixby, according to Modesto police.

Bixby was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where he died from his injuries. Aleman suffered moderate injuries and was hospitalized before he was released and charged. He has remained at the Stanislaus County jail ever since.

Authorities have said Aleman showed signs of driving under the influence of alcohol when the crash occurred.

Rosalio Ahumada: (209) 578-2394, @ModBeeCourts