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Riddle house search

Police search home of Cody Riddle in September after he was charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl.

Journal Star file photo

A 22-year-old man accused of abducting an 8-year-old Lincoln girl from her bed and raping her in his garage has been deemed mentally fit to stand trial after more than two years of treatment at a state psychiatric hospital.

Lancaster County District Judge Darla Ideus ruled Thursday that Cody Riddle now has the capacity to understand the case being made against him and to help with his defense.

Riddle is charged with kidnapping, first-degree sexual assault of a child and burglary in the case; he faces the possibility of life imprisonment if convicted.

Police allege Riddle went to steal items from the girl's home in the early hours of Aug. 27, 2015, entered through an open garage, saw the girl and took her.

At his home, he bound her in his garage, sexually assaulted her and threatened to kill her or her family if she told anyone about it, according to police.

Girl taken in alleged kidnapping, rape struggles with trauma, her parents say

Riddle then let the girl go. He was arrested later that day. 

At his first court appearance on the charges, Riddle tried to talk about the case, his bipolar disorder and drug problems before a defense attorney and the judge cut him off.

In December, his defense attorney asked to have his competency reviewed, and a psychologist found he was mentally incompetent and unable to understand the court case against him.

After a series of delays and evaluations at the Lincoln Regional Center, psychologists for the state and for Riddle's defense offered different assessments of whether he could help assist his lawyers with his case at a hearing in March.

A bearded Riddle appeared in a green sweater with gray sleeves and shackles at a Lancaster County District court hearing March 28.

Riddle remained silent during the hearing and had one of his hands freed so he could take notes.

But the psychologist testifying on Riddle's behalf said he didn't see many notes on Riddle's legal pad.

"It's hard to know what's going on in Mr. Riddle's head," said Mario Scalora, a former psychologist at the regional center, "but I don't see a lot of engagement."

Scalora said he believed a vicious cycle of Riddle's anxiety and low intellectual function prevented him from being able to fully participate in complex activities such as discussing a strategy with his attorney.

Regional center psychologist Jennifer Cimpl-Bohn countered that Riddle excelled during scenarios simulating tasks he would need to do to help with his case, but then when she observed him with his own attorney he shut down, she said.

"He's worried about the potential consequences should be be found competent," Cimpl-Bohn said, noting fears Riddle had of the violence sex offenders suffer from other inmates in prison.

Parents of kidnap, rape suspect say they tried for years to get help for their son

Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Chris Turner had asked the judge to find Riddle competent, but if she didn't, to find that he can still be restored to competency.

Chief Deputy Lancaster County Public Defender Paul Cooney said there was no evidence his client is competent. And, Cooney said, the only determination that Riddle was competent to stand trial in the summer of 2016 had subsequently been reversed by Cimpl-Bohn.

Ultimately, Ideus agreed with Cimpl-Bohn's latest assessment.

"(Riddle) has shown improved problem-solving skills and an ability to integrate detailed information to make legal decisions when discussing hypothetical cases," Ideus said. "He has sufficient intellectual abilities."

She ordered him to remain at the regional center as the criminal case proceeds.

Neither Cooney nor Riddle's family immediately responded to a request for comment.

Riddle will appear in court June 6.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

Reporter

Riley Johnson reports on breaking news and public safety issues in Lincoln and southeast Nebraska.

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