Months before trial, Dixon school shooter’s fitness again in question

DIXON – Two months until he is scheduled to appear before a jury, the fitness of the Dixon High School shooter to stand trial is again undetermined. Matthew A. Milby Jr., 21, in custody since the shooting on May 16, 2018, was scheduled for a pretrial reassessment interview earlier this […]

DIXON – Two months until he is scheduled to appear before a jury, the fitness of the Dixon High School shooter to stand trial is again undetermined.

Matthew A. Milby Jr., 21, in custody since the shooting on May 16, 2018, was scheduled for a pretrial reassessment interview earlier this month with forensic psychologist James “Matthew” Finn, who has interviewed him four times in the last year.

But this time, Milby refused to cooperate with Finn, Milby’s attorney told Judge John Redington at a hearing Friday.

“Dr. Finn said he doesn’t have enough to form an opinion on the defendant’s fitness,” Thomas Murray, of Dixon, said during the hearing, which lasted less than 15 minutes.

Masked and wearing black latex gloves, Milby was present in the courtroom Friday, but did not testify.

Murray motioned for the court to appoint a second evaluator – Steven Gaskell, a forensic psychologist based in Naperville – to reassess Milby’s fitness.

Lee County State’s Attorney Charles Boonstra said he had no objection to a new evaluator, but only if Milby cooperates with him.

“I don’t want us to get delayed, just to have another evaluator appointed,” Boonstra said.

The state indicated in July that it was finally ready for trial, after more than 2 years of investigation and preparation – work that stalled at times while Milby moved in and out of mental health treatment.

Finn first declared Milby unfit for trial in March 2019 after refusing to eatto the point where he was hospitalized.

Milby was transferred to the Elgin Mental Health Center and slowly showed signs of improvement – becoming more vocal and social as well as gaining weight – leading to him being declared fit for trial in Lee County Court in early September 2019.

He was taken back to the old Lee County jail and eventually moved to the new Lee County Law Enforcement Center, where he again began to refuse to eat regularly or take medications.

Finn testified in January that Milby was diagnosed in Elgin with schizotypal personality disorder, with symptoms including severe social anxiety and odd or unusual beliefs that can worsen into delusional thinking, impacting behavior and the level he’s able to function.

Finn also testified that Milby was prescribed anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medications.

Redington ruled him unfit for trial due to mental illness, and in March the two sides agreed to pause the case so Milby’s fitness could again be evaluated.

One month later, Finn reported and Redington ruled Milby fit to stand trial. A trial date of Oct. 28 to Nov. 13 – 2-and-a-half weeks – was set in July.

On Aug. 11, Redington granted a motion from Murray for another fitness evaluation, and Friday he granted Murray’s motion to appoint Gaskell as the new evaluator.

Gaskell will be paid a comparable rate to Finn’s and will have access to a history of the case.

Investigators say Milby, then a DHS senior, took a 9mm semi-automatic rifle to graduation practice in the Lancaster Gym the morning of May 16, fired at gym teacher Andrew McKay, whom he encountered in a hallway, and fled seconds later when confronted and pursued by Dixon Police school resource officer Mark Dallas.

Milby fired at Dallas outside the gym; Dallas returned fire, hitting Milby in the upper shoulder and hip. Milby was arrested near his car in Page Park. No one else was injured.

He is charged with two counts of attempted murder and four counts involving aggravated discharge of a firearm.

The charge involving Dallas carries 20 to 80 years in prison, with a potential 20-year enhancement; the other carries 6 to 30 years in prison, plus 20 years. The first two counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm carry 10 to 45 years; the other two 6 to 30 years.

All require him to serve at least 85 percent.

Milby also is charged with two counts of aggravated battery and one of misdemeanor battery after investigators say he got into a brawl Aug. 31, 2018, with two other Lee County Jail inmates, climbed onto the back of one and tried to strangle him, and struck another.

Neither of them were charged.

The felony is punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison on each count.

A status hearing on Gaskell’s findings is scheduled for Sept. 10

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