Thursday, December 11, 2003

Suspect in trucking firm rampage insists he's sane



By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - The man accused of shooting three people and killing two others in a workplace rampage last month in West Chester Township insists in letters to news media that he is sane and competent to stand trial.

The letters written by Tom West. 50, from the Butler County Jail also criticize his court-appointed attorney, Greg Howard of Hamilton. West writes that he wants a new attorney and won't comply with a competency evaluation as long as Howard represents him.

"I haven't told Howard anything about my case," the letter reads. "Howard came up with the plea of insanity on his own. I don't like that."

West's letter to the Enquirer does not mention the Nov. 6 shooting at Watkins Motor Lines, for which he is scheduled to stand trial May 10 on two counts of aggravated murder and four counts of attempted aggravated murder.

Howard has filed an insanity plea on West's behalf, but West refused to sign the necessary paperwork. His competency hearing is Dec. 19. Howard said Wednesday he did not want to comment on the letter.

"He's got his opinions," Howard said of West. "We will deal with it in court next week. ... If it gets to the point where it's an unworkable situation, I am sure the court will step in."

Butler County Prosecutor Robin Piper called the letters important but not "earth shattering."

"This guy sincerely wants a lawyer who will talk with him and plan his defense with him and not for him," Piper said Wednesday. "That shows a rational thought process and goes against anyone trying to claim he is incompetent or insane."

After the shootings, West made calls and admitted to the shooting on answering machines, authorities and West's father have said. He surrendered at an Indiana truck stop.

One of the Watkins shooting victims, Glenn "Chip" Brierly, 48, was relieved Wednesday to hear that West declared his sanity in the letter. It should clear the way, Brierly said, for West to be tried without delay.

"I think he is just full of it. I don't know what kind of game he is trying to play," Brierly said.

Brierly, a Watkins truck driver, was shot twice, nearly lost his left arm and has scars from the shoulder to the wrist. He was released from the hospital Dec. 3 and is recovering at home in Hamilton.

Brierly faces Christmas broke and in a house without a working furnace. He is unable to work because of his injuries.

He called Wednesday for West to be put to death, saying he "destroyed" lives and robbed two families of their loved ones.

"For what he did, he deserves the death penalty," Brierly said. "If he gets life, I get to go back to work and pay taxes to support him in prison. I don't like that idea."

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.




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