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Murder suspect Ryan Welch needs competency evaluation before he can represent himself; trial delayed

Ryan D. Welch

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NORTHAMPTON — The murder trial of Ryan Welch, originally scheduled for next week, will be delayed while he undergoes an evaluation to determine if he is competent to represent himself.

Welch, 38, of Easthampton, is charged with murder in connection with the February 2012 stabbing death of his girlfriend Jessica Ann Pripstein, 39.

In September, Welch was allowed to act as his own attorney and fire his court-appointed lawyer, Paul Rudof.

During a hearing Wednesday in Hampshire Superior Court, Judge Bertha Josephson said a court-appointed doctor would need “considerable additional time,” to evaluate Welch to determine if he is competent to act as his own lawyer.

Josephson granted a request by Welch’s new standby counsel, John P. Morris, of Salem, to have a defense expert also be present at Welch’s evaluations.

Because of the evaluation, Welch will not be able to begin trial Monday as scheduled. No new trial date has been set, but a status hearing in the case was scheduled for Nov. 26.

Welch also filed a motion to have subpoenaed the recordings of his telephone conversations with Morris at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction where Welch is being held while awaiting trial.

In his handwritten motion filed Wednesday, Welch claims Morris made “numerous knowingly false statements before the court that remain baffling to the defendant” and that allegedly differ from information contained in the recordings.

Josephson took no action on the motion pending the results of Welch’s evaluation.

Welch was arrested after police responding to Pripstein’s 911 call Feb. 20, 2012, said they found her lying in a pool of blood in her apartment on Ward Avenue in Easthampton.

Welch was also in the apartment, bleeding from a neck wound that police said was self-inflicted. He told police he had found Pripstein’s body in the apartment and was so distraught he attempted to kill himself by slitting his throat.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

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