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Competency hearing set for Keith Hicks
By Jerry Sena

Keith Clint Hicks, facing as many as 800 years for statutory rape and other sex charges, will be in court this week in a hearing that will most likely to decide his competency to face the charges.

Keith Clint Hicks

Hicks, a 42-year-old Sugar Grove resident, was being held in the Watauga County Jail pending a $5 million bond. Among the grand jury indictments are allegations Hicks sexually exploited a 15-year-old acquaintance by photographing her as she engaged in various sex acts.

A Superior Court judge ordered in May that Hicks undergo a mental health evaluation at Raleigh’s Dorothea Dix Hospital to determine his competency for trial.

The Watauga County District Attorney’s office had requested the evaluation in a May 25 motion, based on letters they say Hicks sent from his Watauga County Jail cell.

A judge has yet to rule on the motion.

Hicks was first arrested by Watauga County sheriff’s deputies March 11, 2004. He’s been charged with 54 criminal counts, almost all felony sex offenses on a minor.

The mother of the alleged victim has been charged separately for allegedly allowing the same daughter to have sex with a 33-year-old Tennessee man. Tammy Sue Wagner is facing one count of felony child abuse and a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.

Scott Anthony Russell, of Butler, Tenn., pleaded guilty to indecent liberties with a minor in that case. He was sentenced to 13-16 months in state prison and released Aug. 29.

Investigators say that during a May 20, 2004 search of Wagner’s west Boone mobile home they found drugs in the room where Russell and the juvenile were sleeping.

Wagner is charged under a section of child abuse law specifying parents who commit or allow the commission of any sexual act upon a juvenile.

Wagner’s attorney has asked the court to excuse her from testifying against Hicks to avoid compromising her defense.

In questioning Hicks’ competence for trial, Byrd states that Hicks has compromised his own defense with the letters.

In a Jan. 25 letter Hicks reportedly wrote, “I love (juvenile) with all my heart and soul and that is why I am here. I will become a martyr for (juvenile) and allow you to destroy me because I love her that much.”

Since his arrest, Byrd states, Hicks has accused a number of Watauga County agencies of “committing crimes and conspiring against him to incarcerate him for the rest of his life.”

Hicks has apparently repeated his claims in letters to the State Bureau of Investigations, Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, the county Department of Social Services, Watauga County school administrators “and other agencies,” according to the D.A.’s office.

In his motion, Byrd notes an apparent contradiction from a letter dated July 26, 2004, in which Hicks reportedly writes, “Any evidence you have been given to you (sic) by the sheriff’s department was taken from me under distress.”

But later in the same paragraph, Byrd said, Hicks writes “Every shred of evidence you have, I gave freely trying to save (juvenile’s) life.”

Hicks has been in custody since March 11, 2004. He faces 36 counts of statutory rape, two counts of second degree rape, and four counts each of sexual exploitation of a minor and indecent liberties with a child.

The charges carry a potential sentence of more than 800 years.

• Jerry Sena may be contacted

at jtsena@wataugademocrat.com.


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