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YERINGTON, Nev. (AP) — A judge has ordered another hearing on the mental state of a convicted felon accused of a string of five murders east of Reno in 2013 to determine if prosecutors can pursue the death penalty if he's convicted.
A Lyon County judge earlier found Jeremiah Bean to be mentally competent to stand trial, currently scheduled to begin July 13 in Third District Court in Yerington.
But last week, newly appointed Judge John Schlegelmich set a two-day hearing April 30 and May 1 to decide if Bean has the required mental capacity to qualify for capital prosecution under Nevada law.
"That hearing on the motion to determine whether Mr. Bean is intellectually disabled is very important to us," Lyon County District Attorney Steve Rye said Thursday after the judge ordered the additional evaluation.
"It affects whether or not the state can seek the death penalty," he told KRNV-TV.
Bean initially agreed to a plea bargain that would have spared him from the possibility of execution. But he later changed his mind and pleaded not guilty in November 2013 to a total of 19 charges in connection with the killing rampage the previous Mother's Day weekend.
Bean, 26, is accused of the slayings of two couples in two homes in rural Fernley and a newspaper deliveryman at an Interstate 80 exit east of Reno near the Mustang Ranch brothel.
Prosecutors say he killed Robert Pape and Dorothy Pape, both 84, in one Fernley home on May 10, and Angie Duff, 67, and Lester Leiber, 69, at a house around the corner. He also is accused of fatally shooting Eliazar Graham, 52, of Sparks.
Bean, who had been staying two houses away from the Duff-Leiber home, faces the arson charge for allegedly burning the Pape house. Prosecutors say he was trying to destroy evidence of the murder.
Rye said the families of the victims "want to get this case done and closed."
"We'll be ready to go to trial in July," he said.
Friends of Duff attended Thursday's hearing in support of prosecutors' push for the death penalty.
"I hope they throw the book at him," Charlene Arnold told KTVN-TV. "I hope he gets what he deserves."
Bean's public defender, Richard Davies, appealed to the public and the media "to keep an open mind" about the case and many details of the events that led up to the killings that he says have not yet been disclosed.
"There is another side to the story," he told KRNV-TV. "At the trial, there will be an opportunity for everyone to hear both sides of the story."
Bean was convicted of an unrelated burglary in January 2011 in Lyon County and granted probation, which records show was revoked in July 2011. He was jailed for about a year and his parole expired in December 2012.
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