It’s been almost nine years since police say a Layton mother barricaded a bedroom door and then strangled her two young children.
But Sun Cha Warhola’s case has been stalled nearly from the onset, after a judge determined that her mental illness rendered her not competent to face two counts of aggravated murder in court.
Since then, she’s been at the Utah State Hospital — and at one point, was civilly committed to the facility.
But now medical experts say she is competent, and the case against her will move forward.
It’s an unexpected turn in a case that languished for years and comes after a judge had put the trial on hold indefinitely last year after finding Warhola had surpassed the timeframe set by Utah law in which a defendant charged with aggravated murder must be restored to competency, released from custody or civilly committed.
“It’s unusual in my experience for anyone to be incompetent for nine years and then be restored to competency,” Warhola’s attorney, Edward Brass, wrote in an email Tuesday.
Second District Judge Michael Edwards ordered on Tuesday that Warhola be transferred from the Utah State Hospital to the Davis County jail. A scheduling hearing has been set for next month.
Court papers indicate that Warhola still has a mental illness, but whether she is able to stand trial for the charges isn’t tied to a diagnosable mental health condition.
For someone to be declared competent, medical experts must only find that the person can understand the charges against them and be able to help in their defense.
Warhola was not able to do that until late last year, according to court records, after years of receiving treatment at the state hospital.
On Sept. 8, 2010, Warhola’s husband came home from work to find his wife had used a bed to barricade herself in their son’s room, according to charging records.
Warhola asked her husband to give her 10 minutes; he forced his way inside after several minutes had passed.
The man found his children — 8-year-old James and 7-year-old Jean — dead, lying on a bed and covered by a blanket.