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Judge orders competency evaluation for Fauquier teen accused in deaths of his mom, brother

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Wyatt and jennifer norwood

Wyatt and Jennifer Norwood, from a Facebook post in 2016.

Fauquier County Circuit Court Judge Jeanette Irby granted a second “not guilty by reason of insanity” evaluation Friday for a Fauquier County teen accused of fatally shooting his mother and younger brother on Valentine's Day 2020.

The request was granted over the commonwealth’s objection, according to deputy public defender Ryan Ruzic, who is representing Levi Norwood, 18. Another competency to stand trial evaluation was also ordered. The evaluations must be completed within 60 days. The court will review the findings in May.

The Friday, March 5, hearing was originally scheduled to set a trial date in the case, but Ruzic’s successful motion to assess Norwood's competency and sanity at the time of the offense has pushed that back.

Norwood underwent a similar evaluation in August 2020, and it was established that he was competent at that time. In the motion on Friday, Ruzic stated that the August evaluation also noted that Norwood “has significant mental health problems, and that when confronted with intense or emotionally activating information or decisions, it may be expected that his abilities will deteriorate significantly.”

The motion also states: “On Feb. 16, this court and counsel received notification that Mr. Norwood was removed from the Fauquier Adult Detention Center through a temporary detention order and was subsequently committed to the Western State Hospital. … After receiving treatment there, Mr. Norwood has been returned to the Fauquier Adult Detention Center.”

The Western State Hospital is a state psychiatric facility that treats people with “serious mental or substance abuse disorders,” according to its website.

Ruzic stated he has met with Norwood twice since his return, according to the motion, and has noted that “there is a noticeable withdrawal from the defendant in his participation with defense counsel.”

Norwood is accused of killing his mother, Jennifer Norwood, 34, and his 6-year-old brother, Wyatt, in their Midland home on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2020. He was indicted as an adult in July 2020 on two counts of first-degree murder, three counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony and one count of grand theft of an automobile.

Levi norwood

Levi Norwood

Norwood, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, was being held at the Loudoun County Juvenile Detention Center but was transferred to the Fauquier County Adult Detention Facility when he turned 18 on Jan. 11.

The decision to move him to an adult facility was made over the objections of his attorney at a Jan. 7 hearing in Fauquier County Circuit Court.

At issue in that hearing was whether Norwood should be transferred to another juvenile detention facility in Virginia that houses young adult offenders. The Loudoun detention center is licensed only to house inmates who are 17 or younger.

Other juvenile facilities are authorized to house inmates until they turn 22, and his attorney argued he should be transferred to one of those instead of an adult detention center.

Ruzic argued that transferring Norwood to an adult facility would be a risk to his safety and mental health. Ruzic said Norwood has been diagnosed with several mental health disorders and that Norwood attempted to kill himself on three occasions while in custody after his initial arrest.

An adult facility, Ruzic argued, would not have the same mental health resources as a juvenile facility. Ruzic praised Loudoun JDC staff members’ efforts to treat Norwood and said the teen would be at risk of assault from other, older inmates given the severity of the charges against him.

“There is an extreme risk of danger to Mr. Norwood,” Ruzic said of the possibility of his client being moved to an adult facility.

In the motion he filed with the court, Ruzic cited statistics that indicated younger inmates are more at risk of self-harm in adult facilities than in detention centers that hold juveniles. He speculated that if Norwood had a mental health crisis in an adult facility, he would be placed in isolation “only making the risk to his mental health worse.”

But Fauquier County Commonwealth's Attorney Scott Hook sharply disputed Ruzic’s arguments, dismissing the seriousness of two of Norwood’s attempts at harming himself. Hook noted that two of the three attempts were not listed in an initial report about Norwood’s mental health issued by Loudoun JDC officials in April.

“They didn’t take [the attempts] seriously enough to put them in the initial report,” Hook argued.

Hook also questioned the underlying causes of Norwood’s psychological diagnoses.

“Well, of course, when you kill your little brother, you are the cause of the trauma,” he said emphatically. Moving an 18-year-old to an adult facility is routine, Hook said at the time. “I don’t think there’s anything unusual about what we are asking,” he said.

Ultimately, Judge James Plowman agreed. He dismissed Ruzic’s concerns that Norwood would be at a greater risk of assault in an adult detention center. He also expressed skepticism of the argument that Norwood would be at a greater risk of self-harm, calling Ruzic’s citation of broad statistics “speculative.”

In granting the prosecution’s motion to move Norwood to an adult facility, Plowman emphasized his confidence that the Fauquier County adult facility would be sufficiently equipped to protect Norwood from himself and others.

“I’m not compelled by the safety issue,” he said.

Teen alleged past physical abuse by late father

During the investigation of the deaths of Jennifer and Wyatt Norwood, Levi Norwood told a counselor that he was physically abused by his late father, Josh Norwood, according to affidavits in support of search warrants filed in May 2020.

Levi Norwood was taken to the Emergency Department at Fauquier Hospital for injuries sustained from his father in 2017 and 2018, Levi Norwood told investigators.

Josh Norwood, 37, was found dead in the family's home on April 20, 2020, just over two months after he told police he found his wife and young son dead from gunshot wounds in their Midland home.

The elder Norwood said he came home Feb. 14, 2020, to find his wife and younger son dead and his older son missing. He also claimed that someone shot at him when he entered his home that night and told police he thought it was Levi Norwood. Levi Norwood fled the area in a stolen car and was arrested the next day in Durham, N.C., after he was caught shoplifting from a Target store there.

Josh Norwood was found dead after suffering from “trauma to the upper body.” No foul play was suspected, the Fauquier County Sheriff's Office said at the time.

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