Former A&M football player found incompetent to stand trial in machete murder case

The former Texas A&M football player accused of murdering a runner with a machete will not go to trial after a recent ruling found Thomas Johnson mentally incompetent.

Relatives say Thomas was diagnosed with schizophrenia before he allegedly hacked Dave Stevens to death on the White Rock Lake trail in Dallas in October 2015

Jennifer Balido represents Thomas. She says he will be sent to North Texas State Hospital for up to 120 days for treatment and evaluation. Balido presumes Thomas can be made well enough to help in his defense which could involve the argument that he was insane at the time of the murder.  

“I believe that he will eventually go to trial,” Balido said. “Just because he is not competent now does not mean, necessarily, that he was insane at the time of the offense. But it does show the extent of his mental health problems.”

Police say Thomas walked to a nearby equestrian center after allegedly killing Stevens, called 9-1-1 and confessed to the crime. Two weeks later, Stevens’ wife of 25 years, Patti, killed herself.

Thomas was a star at Skyline High. He was heavily recruited before signing with Texas A&M. In 2012, Thomas was a freshman wide receiver catching passes from Johnny Manziel. But suddenly, he disappeared. He was missing for several days before he was found safe. However, Thomas never returned to the team, and the downward spiral had begun.

"Something was drastically wrong, but Thomas still wanted to play sports,” his father, Robert Johnson, told FOX 4 on Tuesday. The schizophrenia, Robert says, did not show up until Thomas was away at college.

Robert’s hope now is to be part of a change in attitude toward mental health and a system that deals with it as an illness.

“Not only to the mentally ill, but to those who have to deal with the mental ill,” said Robert. “It has to be a complete system that helps the family deal with the circumstances that come from this mental illness."

“I believe that Thomas's life would have been markedly different if he would have got the mental health treatment that he needed at the time,” said Balido.

A magistrate found Thomas incompetent to stand trial. Based on a report from a court- appointed medical expert, prosecutors could have challenged the decision but chose not to.

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