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story.lead_photo.caption In this undated photo, Tony Earl Taylor is shown in a courtroom. Photo by Evan Lewis / Texarkana Gazette.

TEXARKANA, Ark. —A man accused of murdering his girlfriend in Texarkana, Arkansas, hiding evidence in Texarkana, Texas, and burying the victim's body on a hunting lease in Ogden, Arkansas, was in court Friday morning to address the issue of his competency.

Mental health experts at the Arkansas State Hospital have found that Tony Earl Taylor, 59, is not fit to proceed because of intellectual deficiency. Taylor is accused in the March 2017 slaying of 35-year-old Crystal Reed. Reed's body was unearthed from a makeshift grave on property in Ogden, Arkansas, by investigators after Taylor allegedly told them where to find her.

Taylor is charged with murder, abuse of a corpse and evidence tampering.

Several different forensic evaluation reports contain the conclusion that Taylor's mental capacity limits his ability to understand the court proceedings or to assist his lawyer with a defense, both of which are required for a finding of legal competency.

In reports dated Oct. 25, 2017, and Aug. 17, 2018, Taylor is found incompetent because of intellectual deficits.

A third report filed earlier this year by Benjamin Silber, Ph.D., of Arkansas State Hospital Forensic Services, agrees with the earlier findings that Taylor simply lacks the intellect to understand what is happening in a courtroom and may not be able to assist his lawyer in mounting a defense to the serious criminal charges facing him.

"It is unlikely Mr. Taylor will be restored to a state of fitness to proceed in the foreseeable future," the report states. "Given the available information, Mr. Tayor poses a low risk of dangerousness to self, others, or the property of others."

The report notes that Taylor's lack of convictions for violent crimes is a factor in the low-risk finding.

The report does state that it is possible Taylor is malingering, or faking, an intellectual deficiency.

"Furthermore, Mr. Taylor's A.S.H. psychiatrist informed me that after his 2018 evaluation with Dr. Matthews, he 'admitted to the social worker the next day that he didn't answer the questions right on purpose and pretended that he didn't understand.' This suggests he may have feigned impairment in the past," the report states. "This information was insufficient to dissuade me from my opinion."

Silber was on hand Friday morning to give testimony at a hearing before Circuit Judge Carlton Jones but was deemed unnecessary because both sides agreed. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kristian Robertson said the state is seeking a court order to have Taylor evaluated by an expert outside the state hospital system. Managing Public Defender Jason Mitchell said he does not oppose the request because he believes the law entitles the state to seek the additional opinion.

Jones said the state will make arrangements for Miller County Sheriff's Office deputies to transport Taylor from the state hospital to the site of the outside expert once a date and place have been set.

Meanwhile Taylor remains in the state hospital.

Taylor faces 10 to 40 years or life in prison if convicted of murder. If found guilty of abuse of a corpse, he faces three to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. If convicted of tampering with physical evidence, Taylor faces up to six years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Bail is set at $750,000.

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llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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