A Sandwich man awaiting trial for allegedly shooting his former in-laws to death, and then trying to kill his ex-wife, had his trial postponed Friday after his lawyer requested a mental health evaluation.
Donald Fredres, 37, was initially set to stand trial June 28 on multiple charges including first-degree murder. At a motions hearing Friday, however, Assistant Public Defender Ryan Hamer asked for a continuance while having Fredres evaluated for fitness and sanity at the time of the offense.
After Fredres waived his right to a speedy trial, Chief Judge H. Chris Ryan Jr. granted the postponement and set a July 23 status hearing. The pending evaluation was described in open court as a “look-see,” meaning there has not been a bona fide doubt raised as to whether Fredres is fit (that is, capable of assisting his lawyers at trial) or whether he was sane at the time of the March shootings in Sheridan.
Nevertheless, mental health evaluations are common in cases of this magnitude — Ottawa murder suspect Michael Swift was similarly ticketed for an evaluation — and the June trial setting for Fredres was expected to be postponed.
Fredres faces automatic life in prison if convicted of the March 16 shooting deaths of Gregory S. Barnes Sr. and Brenda J. Barnes, both 62. In a previous era, Fredres would be eligible for the death penalty, but Illinois abolished capital punishment in 2011.
Fredres faces additional charges in connection with accusations he fired into the door of his ex-wife’s home. She wasn’t struck with a bullet but was treated and released for injuries suffered because of flying debris.
Prosecutors said previously in court Fredres provided police with a videotaped statement. In it, Fredres admitted to traveling to the rural Sheridan home of his former in-laws, where he asked where to find his ex-wife, prosecutors said. Prosecutors allege Fredres then said after Gregory and Brenda Barnes refused to disclose their daughter’s whereabouts, he killed them.
In his recorded statement, Fredres said after learning where his ex had moved to, he went to her residence and fired into the door, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Fredres also directed police to the gun, which was retrieved.
The shootings happened March 16, but the ensuing search for Fredres extended into St. Patrick’s Day. He was arrested without incident at 6:44 a.m. in a field north of Sheridan Correctional Center, but not before residents were ordered to stay inside and secure their doors. The local school district canceled classes while he was at large.