Former MSU Professor “Mentally Unfit” for Trial

A former Missouri State professor accused of killing a retired colleague in 2016 is now in the care of state mental health professionals after being ruled mentally unfit for trial.

Edward Gutting was deemed not able to stand trial by Greene County Judge Thomas Mountjoy.

Marc Cooper

Gutting was charged with killing Missouri State Professor emeritus Marc Cooper, 66, and injuring Cooper’s wife Nancy in 2016. Nancy Cooper’s statement to police states she claimed Gutting said the situation was “between him and Cooper.”

The motion that Gutting was not competent to stand trial was brought by defense attorney Joe Passanise. A state doctor agreed with Passanise’s motion.

Attorney Dee Wampler told OI that their client’s mental state had deteriorated over the three years he’s been in jail.

“It had gotten gradually worse,” Wampler said. “[Gutting] had been in jail since the latter part of 2016 and…his mental condition went downhill. He began to see conspiracies in everything. He felt MSU was in a conspiracy with other professors and he began to believe his own attorneys were in a conspiracy to protect MSU.”

Wampler said his firm’s personal doctor told them that they needed to get Gutting help immediately and three doctors with Fulton State Hospital all agreed that Gutting needed to be taken into their care.

OI spoke with local attorney Michael Horn, who is unaffiliated and unfamiliar with the Gutting case, but has experience with cases involving mental competency. We asked him what the legal process is for someone who is declared mentally unfit for trial.

“This means the person will be in the care of state mental health professionals, likely in a state institution,” Horn said. “They will evaluate his mental status, provide treatment and then determine if in the future he could be fit for trial.”

Horn said that many times the charges against that person would be kept in place should doctors determine the accused is now mentally capable of handling a trial.

Horn added it would be possible that someone in this situation may never be found fit for trial by their doctors and spend many years in a state institution without a trial on the pending charges. There would also be multiple other options available to the court at that point, such as day passes for work release while still being housed in a mental health facility.