Six years and two months after Zuheily Roman Rosado was shot dead in an execution-style attack as she worked at the Mobil convenience store on State Road 100 in Palm Coast, the man accused of murdering her is no longer contesting that he did the killing, and is no longer incompetent to stand trial, as he had been on and off for the past six years.
Joseph Bova II is to be tried in July. He will rely on an insanity defense. He has been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. He faces a first-degree murder charge and the possibility of life in prison if found guilty.
Circuit Judge Terence Perkins last found him to still be incompetent in November, when Bova did not appear in court. On Feb. 7, a doctor at the state psychiatric hospital where Bova has been held for most of the past six years, when he’s not been held at the Flagler County jail, evaluated him and found him competent to stand trial. So has a doctor his public defender hired to conduct an independent evaluation.
“It looks like the conclusion from both are surprisingly similar,” Perkins, the fourth judge to sit on Bova’s case since his arrest in September 2013, said today before ruling him competent.
The evaluations find him to display “pertinent facts” to his attorney, that he “understands the nature of the proceedings,” and that he “manifests appropriate courtroom behavior.”
The last finding is especially relevant. Bova’s court appearances over the years have been a sideshow of their own. He’s at times, and against his many attorneys’ advice, taken to addressing the judge, explicitly threatening him in one case, accusing the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office of framing him, and loudly displaying incoherent or unsettling behavior. There were times when he was not on his medication.
Today, Bova, 31, looked haggard, as he often has, aged as if two or three times more than the years he’s spent in the state hospital’s custody, with bags under the eyes, what looks like a scrape or an injury on the bridge of his nose and under his left eye, his beard a bit scraggly but visibly trimmed, his hair slicked back this time, as opposed to a previous, wilder look. He was not as thin as he’d looked before. And he was entirely quiet, compliant, as if catatonic but for standing and sitting when told.
The court’s been here before: it found him competent to proceed to trial–in mid-July 2015, and it appeared that he’d be tried in the following summer, only for the defense to move to find him again incompetent–which was done.
This time, the prosecution has one additional weapon to keep him competent in the eyes of the court: a rare motion authorizing the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office or its medical designee “to forcibly administer prescription psychotropic medication to [Bova] if necessary.” The defense is not contesting the motion so far. Bova is now represented by Assistant Public Defender Josh Mosley, whose office is based in St. Augustine.
Bova has refused to take his medication in the past. Prosecutors argue that they have “good reason to believe that [he] will again do so, which will likely result in him decompensating and delaying a resolution of the case even longer.” Assistant State Attorney Mark Johnson did not argue the motion in court today: Perkins approved forcible medication in an April 18 order that suggests Bova was already being so medicated at the state hospital. Jail personnel is to follow state hospital instructions on how to go about forcing the medication on Bova. That’s to continue “unless and until modified or eliminated by competent and authorized medical authority,” Perkins’s order states.
Mosley today told the court he will argue that Bova was insane at the time of the shooting, and that possibly two experts will testify to that effect. The prosecution has asked to have Bova examined to evaluate him in light of the insanity claim.
Docket sounding in the case–the last step before trial–is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. June 25 in Courtroom 401 before Perkins. Trial is tentatively scheduled for July. Bova is being held at the county jail without bond.
Rosado was the single mother of six. Her youngest was 1 at the time of the murder, the oldest, 16. Neither Bova nor detectives have offered a motive for the killing. But Rosado’s family says a week before she was shot, she’d been threatened by a man who told her he would come back and kill her. The family, in a court action against the store owner, claims she reported the threat to the owner and sought to be moved off the night shift, to no avail. The civil case is continuing.