Competency in question in case against woman accused of killing 6-year-old Harahan girl

Disclaimer: All persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

HARAHAN, La. (WGNO) — A judge has not yet ruled on the competency of Bunnak Landon, who is accused of the April 2023 death of six-year-old Bella Fontenelle in Jefferson Parish.

Landon faces charges of first-degree murder and obstruction of justice. She allegedly killed Bella, her boyfriend’s daughter, and left the body in a bucket outside the home of Bella’s mother.

Jefferson Parish Coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich reported on April 26, 2023, that the cause of death was “manual strangulation along with blunt force injuries to the head.”

On Wednesday, prosecutors presented two expert witnesses, Dr. Roberts and Dr. Boudreaux, who are part of the competency panel and co-authored an evaluation report.

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Competency evaluations in Louisiana follow criteria from the 1977 case, State v. Bennett. The criteria include assessing the defendant’s understanding of the proceedings, ability to assist their attorneys, understanding of charges and consequences, decision-making capacity and behavioral indicators.

Both doctors testified they met with Landon twice. They described her demeanor as “overly happy,” with Roberts noting she was “flirty” towards him at one point.

They stated that while Landon understood court proceedings and her charges, they were not confident she could assist her attorneys or testify. They reported Landon was “verbose,” often going off-topic and taking a while to return to the subject.

The report described Landon as a “fair historian,” able to recall many details of events before and after the alleged murder, but not the crime itself. Prosecutors emphasized that defendants are informed of their right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination.

Roberts and Boudreaux also noted they could not verify some of Landon’s claims, such as experiences in Cambodia or past abuse, which could potentially result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, they did not observe clear signs of PTSD in their evaluations. They mentioned that Landon sometimes seemed out of touch with reality, expressing excitement about seeing Bella’s father again.

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Concerning Landon’s ability to withstand trial in prison, the doctors recounted a story she shared about handing out cupcakes to other inmates, which they suggested could be a coping mechanism but were unsure it was true.

Ultimately, they recommended that the court deem Landon incompetent to stand trial and send her to the Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System for further evaluation and diagnosis.

The defense called another expert witness, Deland, who met with Landon over nine sessions and made a similar recommendation.

Unlike Roberts and Boudreaux, Deland diagnosed Landon with PTSD and unspecified depressive disorder. She stated that if Landon were moved to a mental health facility and began medication, she could restore competence.

Judge Miller took the recommendations under advisement and will consider the evidence before making a decision. Landon is scheduled to return to court for a status hearing on June 17.

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