Can Accused Killer Seth Winder Stay Sane Long Enough to Stand Trial?

For the friends and family of Richard Hernandez, justice seemed imminent -- until his accused killer's medically induced competence slipped away.

"How does an adult man disappear?" he asked the jury. "By Seth, a homeless man with no money, no friends?"

During the first day of the trial, as he was led into and out of court, Winder never failed to smile sheepishly at his mother, who sat in the first row. On day two, though, something changed. His attorneys noticed he was less attentive. The officers at the Denton County Jail noticed, too.

When he walked into court that afternoon, he didn't look at his mom. He was taken to his seat, his hands stuffed in his pockets, his suit hanging from his thin fame. The jacket lining was torn; its sleeves brushed his fingertips. His pants pooled around his ankles in thick folds, imparting the ill-fitted look of a boy wearing his father's clothes.

For much of the rest of the day, Winder was bent over a legal pad, his face inches from the paper, his pen moving steadily. But as a prosecution's witness testified, Winder stopped writing. He put his pen down and sat bolt-upright in the chair, the palms of his hands resting on his thighs. He fixed his gaze straight ahead and his eyes were emptied of anything that indicated cognition or sight. He remained catatonic for the rest of the day. This time, even the judge and the jury could see that inside of him, something had given way.

The next day, before the trial resumed, Adame approached Judge Bruce McFarling. Winder hadn't been led into court yet. The attorney's partner, Tricia Perry, was in the holding room with him. Adame stepped over to the door, cracked it and peered inside. "Do me a favor," he said to a bailiff sitting nearby. "Peek in there every once in a while to make sure everything's cool."

"We just want to put on the record that we're gonna keep him back there," Adame said to the judge. Prosecutor Piel sidled up to him.

"He OK?" he asked.

"We don't know."

McFarling finally addressed the court.

"The court has learned that at some point last night a psychiatrist at the jail put the defendant on a 15-minute watch and no sharp objects," he said. The court would recess for the day and locate a forensic psychologist to evaluate Winder.

Out in the hall, Adame explained that Winder was supposed to take a course of medication every day and every night. The attorney feared he may not have been taking any of it. He had no idea for how long. "It's my feeling that he's been completely unmedicated," he said.

The next day, McFarling declared a mistrial.

"Yesterday we found out that the defendant had not been taking his medications this week as the doctor had ordered," the judge announced, "so his mental state is no longer in a condition where he can stand trial."

Under court order, Winder was to be sent back to the state hospital in Vernon, where he would once again be treated until he's deemed fit for trial, however long it took. The elliptical cycle of drawing back to competence an insane defendant who believes unequivocally that he is sane was to begin anew. As of press time, Winder was still in jail, waiting for a bed in Vernon.

If he can be retrieved from whatever dark place he's gone, another jury will be empaneled. Adame will plead his innocence and Piel, or some other prosecutor, will seek to hold him to account for the murder of Richard Hernandez, praying he doesn't lose him again during the interminable wait between a competency determination and trial.

Out in the hallway after the judge's announcement, Piel shook his head. "I've never even heard about something like this happening to somebody else," he said. "He was faking competency."

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What the?
What the?

I may have read this wrong, but does anyone know why the maintenance man would have entered the apartment one day and claimed only to see a little red dirt on the carpet. Then the next day when confronted by the police he admitted seeing some blood in what the officer described as like a Stephen King movie?


Wow. Too bad Law & Order isn't on anymore as I would have loved to see how they handled this scenario.


Such a sad example of our flawed mental health and justice system. He was insane when he committed the murder but can't remember it but if he can stay medicated he can be prosecuted and sent to prison where he will have no mental health care. Where is there any justice here?


The book: Slipping into Madness -The Seth Winder Story is available online at and other online bookstores.


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I beg to differ with Derek Adame, the book didn't cause the trial delays. The proesecution wasn't ready, they delayed it over and over again after May of 2010.


@What the? I was the maintenance man that was interviewed by the homicide detectives in the first 48 " the guy with no shirt " I wanna say none of us were ever let in to the apt until the detectives asked for the victim's apt key I then was asked to get it & walk them to the apt but was not let in! They took the keys and opened the door saying he could still be in there. As they went in the apt I stood on the other side of the breezeway . There was alot that was not covered in the episode but being as the show was an hour long they put in enough for the common person just watching the show to know. All I remember was the small smeared bloody hand print on the corner of the window you could see from outside. We never saw the unit until it was aired on tv.... Poor guys! Both of them!!

My prayers go out to both sides of the family! May they find peace!!


How gross of you to try and capitalize on your son's insanity!!!!