Clanton teen sentenced to mental institution

Published 2:38 pm Friday, December 4, 2015

A Clanton teenager charged in the stabbing death of a female relative was found not guilty by reason of mental disease and sentenced to a mental institution on Nov. 30.

Chilton County Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds filed an order committing Lonnie Fells, 16, of Clanton, to the custody of the Alabama Department of Mental Health for evaluation, treatment and therapy, according to court records.

The order states that Fells is mentally ill and that as a consequence of his mental illness, his being at large poses a “real and present threat of substantial harm to himself or to others.”

Fells was charged with murder for the stabbing death of the teen’s 69-year-old female relative on Dec. 30, 2013.

According to an order filed Aug. 24, mental evaluations were performed on Fells by Dr. Karl Kirkland as to Fells’ ability to stand trial, and he was found “not competent for that purpose and was sent to UAB for treatment.”

The order states that upon Fells release from the facility, Kirkland re-evaluated Fells and found him to be competent now, but went on to state that Fells was not competent at the time of the offense as charged.

The defense attorney representing Fells found that Fells was not guilty by reason of mental defect or mental disease, according to court records.

The order went on to state that having access to the forensic evaluation performed at the Juvenile Court level, the evaluator found that Fells evidenced “both subtle and overt signs of a thought disorder that is characteristic of psychosis and/or early onset of schizophrenia, paranoid type.”

On Nov. 30, Reynolds ordered that Fells not be released from the custody of the Alabama Department of Mental Health unless specifically authorized by the court.

In a May 2, 2014, report, Kirkland reported that the diagnosis was confirmed and that Fells was suffering with a severe mental illness that resulted in his inability to appreciate the wrongfulness and criminality at the time of the alleged offense, according to court records.

Authorities at the time of the incident reported responding to a call of a woman unconscious at her home in the 400 block of County Road 356 in Clanton.

Once on the scene, authorities found Annareta Fells outside her mobile home with multiple stab wounds.

Annareta Fells was pronounced dead on the scene.

At the time of the incident, authorities did not identify Lonnie Fells due to his age, and whether he would be tried in court as an adult or a juvenile.

According to courts records, Lonnie Fells was indicted by a Chilton County Grand Jury in August 2014 and later arrested.

In October 2014, Reynolds denied a youthful offender request from Fells, according to court records.

Under Alabama law, someone who is charged with crimes while he or she is 21 or younger can apply for youthful offender status.

Fells then entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.