Cody Wells at his December arraignment in Putnam County Common Pleas Court - Putnam Sentinel
Cody Wells at his December arraignment in Putnam County Common Pleas Court. (Putnam Sentinel/Steven Coburn-Griffis)

OTTAWA — A Fostoria man appeared for a pretrial hearing in Putnam County Common Pleas Court on Thursday, charged with first-degree felony rape involving a child under the age of ten.

Well after a grand jury indicted Cody Wells on the charge in June of 2019, the now 20-year-old appeared for an arraignment on Dec. 19, where a plea of not guilty was entered. According to Putnam County Assistant Prosecutor Todd Schroeder, the roughly six-month delay between the indictment and Wells’ appearance in a Putnam County court was due to his incarceration in Wood County. There, Wells faces two similar felony rape charges, both with a child specification.

According to the Wood County Clerk of Court’s Office, Wells was determined incompetent to stand trial on Aug. 26 in Wood County Common Pleas Court. Pursuing a similar tack as his counterpart to the north, Barry Schroeder, Wells’ court appointed defense counsel in Putnam County, requested a competency examination on Jan. 3.

“Competency is not the same as sanity,” T. Schroeder explained. “Competency simply means a defendant understands that there are charges against him or her, understands that he or she has a defense attorney to assist them, understands what the evidence of the case is likely to be, understands the role of the prosecutor, understands the role of the judge, and has enough understanding to appreciate that their liberty is at risk, and it’s important for them to assist their attorney.”

In the case against Wells in Wood County, an examiner has determined the defendant, due to what T. Schroeder described as “IQ and other factors,” is unable to understand these fundamental principles.

While Common Pleas Court Judge Keith Schierloh has yet to announce a decision on the motion, should the court approve the exam, the results will likely prove the same.

According to T. Schroeder, the psychologist who made the assessment in Wood County will likely be retained by the Putnam County court.

“Then the state is left with two options,” T. Schroeder asserted, explaining the processes the court can then pursue. “There’s always an option to dismiss. Alternatively, the statue provides that the court can essentially hold the defendant according to whatever the least confined setting is, for a period of time to see if he regains competency that is required in order to pursue trial. Recommendations would come from the examiner as to whether or not it’s likely he’ll regain competence, and what steps can be taken to help him regain competence to stand trial.”

In such cases, the determination as to what constitutes “the least confined setting” is key. Hospitals and other similar institutions, according to T. Schroeder, exist at one end of the spectrum, with supervised home stays at the other, or a combination of the two. With the duration of the observation open-ended, the possibility of a lifetime spent in an institutional setting in the offing, the determination then rests in the hands of medical professionals. Defendants determined incompetent may begin observation in an institution, but later be released to a home setting, to the daily care of family with only limited institutional oversight.

Pending Judge Schierloh’s determination, Wells remains in custody in lieu of a $250,000 bond.