Joseph Bova, the impenetrable, unpredictable 28-year-old suspect in the execution-style murder of a Palm Coast gas station clerk and mother of six in 2013, has yet to be cleared for trial. He’s had issues with meds: he doesn’t like to take them. He doesn’t like doctors evaluating his competency. He walked out on one recently. Whether any of that enigmatic behavior is tactical or psychosomatic has been no less a mystery than any motive for the alleged killing.
But after Bova’s first appearance in almost a year before a circuit judge in Flagler County this afternoon, his attorney, Ray Warren, said Bova may be ready for trial in August. He might have been ready for it later this month had another murder trial Warren is handling–that of Anna Pehota, who is accused of murdering her husband–not been scheduled for the middle part of the month.
Warren is waiting on one final document regarding Bova: a doctor’s report on his competency. Warren argued last month that Bova, who was judged competent to stand trial late last year and has been at the Flagler County jail since (after a stint in a state psychiatric hospital), might have been backsliding and acting too erratically to stand trial. But it appears the prosecution’s–and the court’s–patience is wearing thin.
Bova, Warren said, has been taking his medication diligently, and was at last seen by a doctor in a session Warren himself attended, though Warren has yet to see that report. That’s what he’s waiting on, the last step before trial. Circuit Judge Matthew Foxman today appeared willing to allow that step, but not much more, especially as the prosecution reminded the court that Bova has a history–brief, but certain–of backsliding. “This is ripe for recurring,” the prosecutor said, suggesting that the backsliding may be more tactical than real: as trial approaches, Bova displays symptoms of incompetency.
Warren acknowledged that that had happened before, but only once. “We haven’t been going back and forth on this. He’s been sent to the state hospital one time. Whether he’s competent right now is the court’ determination,” Warren said.
“I’m at this crossroad,” Warren said, “he is taking his medication now.” He then added: “I just don’t have a report.” He said the state has the option, should Bova decide to stop taking his medications, of actually injecting him with medication against his will.
Foxman, who always speaks with defendants, giving them a chance to speak for themselves, asked Bova how he was. “I’m OK,” Bova replied in an undertone. The exchange was more than just a formality: Bova’s previous court appearances have at times been bizarre, with Bova going off on rants about the police, the court, the jail, claiming that he was being framed. But nothing about the Bova case has been less than bizarre from the day police found him living out of a car in Boca Raton, after an investigation that tied him to the murder through surveillance video, which matched his clothes, and through his use of an ATM earlier the day of the crime at the same gas station.
The exchange with Foxman was notable in that Bova appeared no more or less subdued than many defendants who appear before the court. He stood patiently next to Warren, in front of Foxman, and answered a few questions. “It makes me feel kine of sick,” Bova said of his medication, especially in the stomach. “I don’t like taking medication.”
It was never made clear why Warren did not have the doctor’s report on Bova. But the next pre-trial is now scheduled for Aug. 2. Absent any other surprises, docket sounding–the last step before trial–will then be scheduled. The trial itself usually follows the week after docket sounding. That still gives Bova time for a plea. But his case’s trajectory gives no hint that Bova has even been inclined to plead out.
Bova is accused of killing Zuheili Roman Rosado at the Mobil Mart convenience store on State Road 100 in Palm Coast the night of Feb. 21, 2013. She was 32. None of her family members were in court today.