A judge in Wilkes Superior Court cleared the way Wednesday for the trial of a Thurmond man charged with first-degree murder.

At the conclusion of a hearing, Judge Michael Duncan, Wilkes County’s resident Superior Court judge, ruled that Timmy Dale Bates, 54, is mentally competent to stand trial.

Duncan set Sept. 3 as his next court date, though trial is likely still some time away.

Bates is charged with the July 10, 2018, shotgun slaying of Debra Ann Harris Royal, 49, who lived with Bates at 440 Center Lane, Thurmond. Center Lane is located off Center Church Road.

Chief Deputy David Carson of the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office said at the time of the incident that Royal was shot once in the abdomen and was dead when deputies arrived. The shooting occurred around 9:30 p.m.

Bates, also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, was arrested at the scene and has since remained in custody. He has multiple prior felony convictions.

Forensic psychiatric and psychological evaluations were performed earlier this year. In finding Bates competent to stand trial, Duncan noted that the evaluations showed no evidence of psychosis, that he had the ability to understand the criminal proceedings and had the ability to assist his attorney, Jay Vannoy of North Wilkesboro.

Representing the state during the hearing was Assistant District Attorney Leigh Bricker.

In another hearing, Duncan ruled that David Eli Glass, 65, of 298 Ivey Lane, Roaring River, is mentally competent to stand trial on multiple rape and sex offense charges.

Glass was charged in July 2017 by Det. Nancy Graybeal of the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office with nine counts of first-degree statutory rape, four counts of rape of a child and nine counts of first-degree sex offense with a child.

The sexual abuse occurred over a six-year period, Capt. Brandon Absher said at the time of the arrest.

Graybeal said the incidents were reported by someone who learned about the situation from the victim.

Duncan noted that Glass, who dropped out of school in the eighth grade, can’t fully read or write.

He also found that forensic evaluations done in March at Central Regional Hospital in Butner showed Glass had no psychosis and no mood disorder.

Glass, Duncan said, has a learning disability, but no intellectual disability.

The judge found that Glass is able to understand what is happening in terms of his criminal charges and that he is able to assist his attorney at trial.

Bricker informed Duncan that he and Vannoy are in active plea negotiations. Duncan agreed to hold the matter open through the end of next week, allowing to state and defense time to come to an agreement.

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