CHRISTIANSBURG — McKenzie Kyle Hellman, accused of murdering his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son, and of helping her sexually abuse the boy and make child pornography, should undergo a mental evaluation, his attorney said Thursday.
“There have been some indications and there have been some letters he has written that indicate that there are some profound issues we need to address,” defense attorney Fred Kellerman of Christiansburg said during a hearing in Montgomery County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
Kellerman said that he has learned that Hellman was involuntarily committed to mental health facilities several times, but has not yet reviewed medical records that might give details about what happened.
Judge Philip Trompeter ordered that Hellman undergo an evaluation to determine his mental competency to stand trial and also his state of mind at the time of the incidents that prompted the array of charges that he faces. Trompeter scheduled a Sept. 5 review date for the court to receive the results of the evaluation and decide how to proceed.
Hellman, who was 25 when he was arrested, is charged with felony murder for the Jan. 13 death of Steven Dale Meek II, the son of Hellman’s girlfriend Kayla Nicole Thomas.
Other charges against Hellman include child abuse, two counts of aggravated sexual battery of a child younger than 13, solicitation of a child younger than 15 for sexual purposes, accessory to forcible sodomy of a child younger than 13, accessory to inanimate object penetration of a child younger than 13, accessory before the fact to producing child pornography, accessory before the fact to distributing child pornography, and possessing child pornography.
In Virginia, felony murder is a charge that alleges that a victim died during the commission of another felony.
Other than the mention of possible mental health factors, no details of the case were discussed during Thursday’s hearing.
According to earlier statements from Christiansburg police, Hellman called emergency dispatchers on the night of Jan. 11 and said Steven had fallen. An officer who arrived at the residence in the 400 block of Christiansburg’s Zinc Lane, where Hellman and Thomas lived with Steven, found the boy lying on the floor with Hellman sitting next to him.
In a January news conference, Christiansburg Police Chief Mark Sisson said that when the police officer found Steven on the floor, the boy had no pulse. The officer and rescue squad members were able to re-start his heart but Steven died two days later in Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
Steven had suffered an “extreme blunt force trauma” to his head and his injury was not consistent with Hellman’s story of a fall, Sisson said.
After Thursday’s hearing, Dr. Amy Tharp of the state crime lab in Roanoke said that Steven’s cause of a death was a blunt force injury to the head. The manner of his death was determined to be homicide, she said.
Investigators seized electronic devices and other items from Hellman and Thomas, then charged them with sexually abusing Steven and making child pornography.
Thomas, 25, is charged with sodomy of her son, inanimate penetration of a person younger than 13, production of child pornography involving a child younger than 15, possession and distribution of child pornography, and child abuse and neglect.
Thomas has a plea hearing scheduled for June 19 in the county’s Circuit Court, but Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Pettitt said this week that Thomas’ case probably will be postponed.