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Murder suspect from Stuart headed to mental facility for treatment
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Murder suspect from Stuart headed to mental facility for treatment

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A Stuart man charged with the murder of his wife will enter a treatment facility for the “treatment of an incompetent defendant” by order of the court.

The mental evaluation of Thomas Pequignot presented in Henry County Circuit Court on Tuesday resulted in Pequignot being ordered to receive inpatient services and treatment at a facility undisclosed with a return court date next year when it will be determined if he has been restored and can stand trial.

Pequignot was scheduled to face a jury trial in March 2020, after he was indicted for the strangulation death of his wife, Lorene “Bug” Hopkins-Pequignot, in January 2018.

Circuit Court Judge David Williams granted a joint motion by Henry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Nester and Pequignot’s attorney, John Fisher, to delay the trial and release Pequignot on a secured bond of $10,000.

Pequignot is now represented by Martinsville attorney Phil Gardner, court documents state.

Those records also offer details of a 9-1-1 call made in January 2018 when a man told the dispatcher that it appeared his home at 4436 Longview Drive in Fieldale had been broken into and that he could not find his wife.

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When deputies arrived, they found Hopkins-Pequignot dead. The Medical Examiner’s office in Roanoke determined the death was a homicide by strangulation.

“While working the crime scene to identify and collect evidence, it became quickly apparent that it appeared to be a staged crime scene,” said Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry at the time. “Evidence was collected, and then over the past 16 months we have continued working very diligently on this case, going through the evidence.”

Henry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Nester has not said why he thinks Pequignot killed his wife. Copies of the search warrants and original police reports remain hidden from public view.

Henry County Sheriff Office’s Capt. Wayne Davis said the documents were not made available “in an effort to protect the integrity of the investigation.”

Perry has said the mountain of evidence his investigators collected included “dozens of interviews, some in South Carolina and other locations.”

Essie Handy of Ridgeway, Hopkins-Pequignot’s sister, told the Martinsville Bulletin shortly after the alleged murder that someone with the sheriff’s department told her Hopkins-Pequignot was asleep when she was murdered and that some family members had observed blood all over the mattress after her death.

Pequignot is due back in Henry County Circuit Court on Jan. 21, over four years after the crime was committed, for a review to determine if he has been mentally restored in order to face trial. He is charged with a single count of first-degree murder.

Bill Wyatt is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at 276-638-8801, Ext. 236. Follow him @billdwyatt

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The Martinsville Bulletin reports court proceedings in Henry County and Martinsville district and circuit courts, except some j…

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