Doctor: Pepper incompetent to stand trial for beating

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Aug. 20, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.

   Contributed for The Victoria Advocate

Lupe Sandoval often feels antsy, cooped up in his house.

The 53-year-old used to manage a golf club. Now, when he tries to do errands around the house, he's exhausted within an hour.

He slurs his words, and the vision in his left eye is blurry.

A psychologist Tuesday found Pepper incompetent to stand trial for the beating that caused Sandoval's injuries.

Sandoval was not surprised.

"Honestly, I don't think he's going to get better. Pepper is Pepper. Pepper has always been Pepper," Sandoval said Wednesday.

Pepper, a well-known transient whose birth name is Marlin Adams, was charged with aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury and obstruction or retaliation.

Police arrested him on April 17.

Then, a convenience store surveillance camera captured Pepper, 59, beating Sandoval unconscious.

Sandoval remembers the parking lot in front of the store was empty when he went back to his car to retrieve his wallet. Everything after that point, he draws a blank.

The state will not challenge the psychologist's findings nor will it ask for a competency trial, Victoria County District Attorney Stephen Tyler said Wednesday.

Pepper will instead be sent to a hospital to regain competency.

"On an aggravated assault charge, he can be held (at the hospital) for 20 years during which, if he regains competency, he can go to trial," Tyler said.

Pepper's attorney, Jerry Clark, said he "wholeheartedly" agreed with the psychologist's findings and would have been surprised if they'd been different.

Competency and insanity are not synonymous, and Clark explained he only asked for the psychologist to evaluate his client's competency.

Competency in the court system means one has a rational and factual understandings of the proceedings that would help his or her attorney in his or her defense, Clark said.

There is currently no finding about what Pepper's mental state was on April 17, and Pepper has been found incompetent in criminal cases before, he said.

Tyler was assigned to one of those cases.

For a 2000 assault causing bodily injury, a class A misdemeanor, Pepper was found incompetent and sent to San Antonio State Hospital.

It wasn't until 2001, when he regained competency and was sentenced to jail time for the charge, according to court records.

It's unclear where he will be sent for treatment now.

"I know it might seem wrong to the Sandoval family, but that is justice as written in Texas law, and there are similar laws in other states as well," Tyler said. "I think if he's in an environment where he can receive treatment, where he can be safe and others can be safe from him, then that's probably a good solution."

Sandoval has known Pepper for years.

When Sandoval owned a plumbing business, Pepper would come inside and sing for his patrons.

Sometimes, Sandoval would give him money when he asked, sometimes he wouldn't or simply couldn't afford to.

"I've been to Whataburger and bought him a hamburger. I think I've done it without him even asking. I guess that's what makes it difficult for me, is I don't know what happened. I don't remember seeing him," Sandoval said.

Sandoval, who has an eye surgery scheduled Friday in Houston, is worried about the pace of his recovery.

He's been weaning himself off his medication.

"I hope he doesn't do it to somebody else because you know what, I don't want anybody to go through what I went through," he said.



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