Appeals court: Elderly man incompetent for murder trial

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court ruling that an elderly South Dakota man accused in a 1974 fatal stabbing isn’t competent to stand trial.

New DNA testing led to the arrest of Algene Vossen in the death of 74-year-old Mable Herman of Willmar, Minnesota, who prosecutors said had been stabbed 38 times.

Vossen, now 80, was questioned shortly after the body of the victim was discovered by her sister in Willmar on Jan. 27, 1974. But it was only after advances in DNA testing and another look at the case that Vossen was arrested decades later in Sioux Falls where he had been living.

“I read the District Court order. It was quite thorough. there were three experts and two thought he was incompetent and one thought he was competent and the District Court seem to consider all of those reports,” appeals Judge Renee Worke said in this week’s ruling.

The state had argued that the lower court didn’t properly weigh the evidence in those expert findings and said Vossen is mentally fit to stand trial, KELO-TV reported.

“It’s clear from the record Mr. Vossen demonstrated not only factual understanding of what is court, what is a judge, what is an attorney, what do they do; he had opinions and was able to express rational understanding of how that would impact his case,” Assistant County Attorney Julianna Passe said.

Vossen will be evaluated for civil commitment, which is a court-ordered institutionalization and will be periodically examined every six to 12 months.