Murder suspect's competency trial delayed



LAWRENCEVILLE -- A jury trial slated this week to determined if murder suspect Flavio Pena is competent to stand trial has been continued, marking a second delay in his prosecution, officials said Tuesday.

Assistant District Attorney Tracie Cason said the case was continued due to a death in the family of Pena's defense attorney. A new trial date is pending, she said.

The Lawrenceville resident is charged in the November 2007 fatal beating of David Cruz, 22. Investigators have said the two were acquainted but gave no indication what allegedly set Pena off.

Authorities believe Pena kicked the victim to death during a drunken, roadside brawl on Arnold Road near U.S. Highway 29, where Cruz's body was found in a ditch the next day.

The trial this week was meant to determine if Pena is fit to stand trial on murder and aggravated assault charges.

On the eve of his murder trial in March 2009, a judge granted Pena's defense last-minute permission for a psychological evaluation, overruling an objection by the state. Some 25 witnesses were subpoenaed and ready to testify in that trial, prosecutors said then.

Pena, formerly a construction worker, has been jailed without bond since the day Cruz died nearly four years ago. Jail officials have more recently placed a detainer on him for federal immigration authorities.

A third man involved in the brawl, Mario Palomo-Lopez, was charged with disorderly conduct but was cleared in the slaying.