Woman charged in Hollis attempted murder and home invasion to be evaluated by psychiatric expert

NASHUA – The trial of a woman charged with attempted murder has been delayed while her competency is evaluated by a psychiatric expert.

A Hillsborough County Superior Court judge granted a motion filed by Cynthia Nagele’s attorneys to delay the trial because of their concerns about her ability to understand discussions about her case, according to court documents.

At the same time, prosecutors and defense attorneys have asked the judge to decide whether Nagele should be able to claim self-defense or “stand your ground” if the case does go to trial, according to court documents.

Nagele, 58, of Lowell, Mass., is charged with attempted murder and first-degree assault. She was arrested May 17 and charged with breaking into a trailer on Mooar Hill Road in Hollis and assaulting the man inside with a knife and hammer. Two Massachusetts men are facing felony charges stemming from the same incident, according to court records.

Judge Charles Temple granted a motion filed by Nagele’s defense attorneys, public defenders Eletheria Keans and Amanda Steenhuis, to refer Nagele to the office of the forensic examiner, according to court documents.

The attorneys said they have noticed Nagele having trouble processing and retaining information as they talked to her about accepting a plea bargain or going to trial, according to their motion.

“Counsel isn’t sure if Ms. Nagele’s struggles with comprehension are due to the nature of the conversations, undiagnosed mental health issues, or both,” according to the motion. “Regardless, it is apparent that Ms. Nagele has no ability to make important decisions related to her defense because she had not understood or retained the information that had been provided to her in previous meetings and through discovery.”

Nagele’s trial was scheduled to begin with jury selection on May 5, according to court records.

Prosecutors have also asked Temple to strike down Nagele’s possible claims of self-defense or the state’s stand-your-ground law. Nagele could argue she acted in self-defense to justify her use of nondeadly force because her brother, another resident of the trailer, had given her permission to be on the property, according to court documents.

Assistant County Attorneys Kathleen Broderick and Michele Battaglia wrote in a motion that Nagele was a “burglar and initial aggressor” and that it “defies logic” for her to then claim the assaults were justified.

“Simply put, the defendant burglarized, stabbed, bludgeoned and tried to kill the victim, in the victim’s home during a home invasion,” the prosecutors wrote. “The defendant is simply not entitled to justify her actions by availing herself of the self-defense or defense of premise statute.”

Prosecutors also argued Nagele can’t argue the assaults were self-defense without first admitting she committed the assaults – something defense attorneys disagree with.

Nagele’s attorneys filed an objection with the court, saying Nagele doesn’t have to admit to anything and that the determination whether she can rely on claiming self-defense shouldn’t be made until evidence is presented at trial.

“The state’s argument is not only frivolous and a waste of the court’s time, it is not based on legal authority as it purports to be,” according to the motion.

Temple has not ruled on those motions.

Nagele is free on $50,000 bail. The attempted murder charge carries a possible sentence of life in prison, according to court documents.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).