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New details released about New Meadows killings, suspect's lawyers ask for psych evaluation

The Adams County Sheriff's Office says the Mehens told a deputy Hart was “okay to stay at the hotel, as long as he stopped going into other guests’ hotel rooms."

NEW MEADOWS, Idaho — The Adams County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday released more information about what led up to the shooting of Rory and Sara Mehen at the Hartland Inn, the hotel they owned, in New Meadows on Oct. 1.

KTVB previously reported that a sheriff’s deputy responded to the Hartland Inn and came in contact with the suspect, John Cody Hart, less than an hour before to the shooting. 

Hart was a guest at the hotel at the time of the shooting.

The Adams County Sheriff’s Office says the Mehens called to report a man behaving suspiciously around 11:40 a.m. The man was identified as John Cody Hart. Adams County Deputy Grob responded and got to the Hartland Inn about 10 minutes later, where he took the Mehens’ report.

According to a press release sent Wednesday, the Mehens told Grob that Hart was, “okay to stay at the hotel, as long as he stopped going into other guests’ hotel rooms”.

Deputy Grob then made contact with Hart and told him to stay out of peoples' rooms. Grob cleared the scene around 12:20 p.m. to respond to a high priority emergency call in the Council area, according to an affidavit and the Adams County Sheriff's Office.

The 911 call of shots fired came in 24 minutes after Grob left the hotel, at 12:45 p.m.

According to the affidavit, when Hart was arrested, he told Washington County detective Jordan Doggett that he had gone through drawers in rooms inside the inn, looking for socks that he thought belonged to his children. At that time, the Mehens asserted to him that he could not be going through other residents' rooms. 

"John told us they then snatched everything from his hands, making him feel like a thief. They then called the cops," the affidavit said. "John stated that this made him angry, that it caused him pain, and that he felt the couple were like Bonnie and Clyde."

Before the shots rang out, the affidavit says Hart went back to his room after the socks were taken from him and "prepared for the worst."

"He then heard Pope Gregory and John Paul say, 'are you going to let Bonnie and Clyde do that to our family,'" the affidavit says. "John told me that he didn't spite those people, and that they still have life in their soul, not in their flesh."

RELATED: Documents show possible motive of New Meadows suspect, prosecutor seeks death penalty

The document says that Hart then told detectives he went to the front counter and shot the man and woman, who officials identified as Rory and Sara Mehen.

The affidavit said there is probable cause to believe that Hart murdered the two in the first-degree. "These actions took ample time," the document said.

The prosecuting attorney for Adams County filed to seek the death penalty in this case, where they said "the murder was especially heinous," that Hart "exhibited utter disregard for human life," and that Hart could "probably constitute a continuing threat to society."

Hart is being held without bail until his next hearing. A status conference is set for Oct. 17.

On Monday, Hart's public defenders filed a motion asking an Adams County judge to order a mental evaluation, and for taxpayers to foot the bill.

Court documents show his attorneys want the Department of Health & Welfare to do a psychiatric evaluation because there is reason to doubt Hart's mental fitness to proceed. They also say there is reason to believe he cannot assist in his own defense or understand the proceedings against him.

His attorneys also want an opinion about whether Hart lacks the capacity to make informed decisions about treatment. Hart's defense attorneys want the public to pay for this because he can't.

As KTVB previously reported, Hart was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial earlier this year for separate charges in Washington. He was waiting for a bed to open up in the state psychiatric hospital, Western State Hospital, when a Clark County, Washington judge let him out of jail in July.

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