WINCHESTER — The words of a defendant who insists she is mentally unfit to stand trial for allegedly helping hide a homicide victim’s body hurt her cause in a video appearance in Frederick County Circuit Court on Tuesday.
“I was born with a disability,” Clara Ann Perdue told Judge William Warner Eldridge IV by video from the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center in Frederick County. “I am borderline mentally retarded.”
But Eldridge ordered Perdue to undergo a second mental evaluation despite the first one that said she was unfit.
“Based on her remarks here, the defendant seems well aware of the process,” he said. “I believe a second opinion is appropriate.”
Perdue, 37, has been charged with concealment of a body. Police said she confessed on July 31 to helping 26-year-old Larry Lee Mullenax III drag and hide 22-year-old Sarah Curran’s body in a homeless encampment off Baker Lane on July 16 after she said Mullenax killed Curran. Curran, Mullenax and Perdue were homeless at the time of the killing.
Police said Mullenax confessed to beating, choking and stabbing Curran, with whom he had been in an alleged abusive relationship. Mullenax has been charged with first-degree murder, stabbing in commission of a felony, concealment of a body and conspiracy to concealment.
Three encampment residents told The Winchester Star after the killing that Curran and Mullenax had argued about Mullenax dating Perdue. One resident said Mullenax bragged to him about murdering Curran and taking her bank card afterward.
According to police, Perdue said Mullenax discussed “getting rid of” Curran several weeks before the killing. She also said Mullenax’s mother discussed on Facebook Messenger actions her son took after allegedly killing Curran.
Perdue has been incarcerated since being arrested on Aug. 7. While at the jail, a mental examination was done by psychologist April M. Szilagyi. Heather D. Enloe, a county assistant commonwealth’s attorney, told Eldridge she disagreed with Szilagyi’s conclusion that Perdue was mentally incompetent to stand trial. Based on her observations of Perdue and Perdue’s jailhouse communications, Enloe said she believed Perdue was exaggerating her mental condition.
However, Perdue, who was appearing on video due to the coronavirus pandemic, interrupted Enloe and said she was born with a mental disability. Perdue, who was on the verge of tears while speaking, said she had attended special education classes while a child and had been prescribed Ritalin, a drug used to treat behavioral disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She said there was “no way” her mental illness could be treated enough for her to be prosecuted. “I am with it for my entire life,” she said.
The second evaluation will be done by psychologist William McKenna. A mental competency hearing is scheduled at 9 a.m. on March 16.