A Forsyth County judge stopped a plea hearing Tuesday and sent a Winston-Salem man accused of making threats of mass violence to Raleigh for an evaluation to determine his competency to stand trial.
Dennis Alexis Maldonado, 22, of Rickard Drive in Winston-Salem was scheduled to plead guilty Tuesday in Forsyth Superior Court to two felony counts of making a false report of mass violence on educational property and one misdemeanor count of communicating threats. He is accused of making threats directed at Walkertown elementary and middle schools and toward Forsyth Medical Center. He is also accused of threatening a Forsyth County sheriff’s deputy.
But midway through reviewing the plea transcript with Maldonado, Judge David Hall became uncomfortable with whether Maldonado understood the purpose of the hearing and what he was doing.
Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, Maldonado answered most of the questions as if he understood what was happening and he entered a guilty plea and admitted that he was indeed guilty of the alleged crimes.
Then Hall asked Maldonado if there was a plea arrangement in his case, and this is where Maldonado stumbled. He said he didn’t understand. Hall asked him if he understood what a plea arrangement or a plea deal was.
Maldonado couldn’t answer.
Hall reviewed a mental-health evaluation conducted in August that determined Maldonado was competent to stand trial. Hall then asked Maldonado a series of questions, including whether he could describe the crimes of which he was accused. He couldn’t.
Hall asked if he could name his attorney, who is Artrese Ziglar. He did name her, and when asked what she was supposed to do for him, he replied, “Fight for my case.”
When Hall asked what the purpose of the hearing was, Maldonado repeated, “Fight for my case.”
“I’m not comfortable proceeding,” Hall immediately said after Maldonado’s response. Hall ordered that Maldonado be sent to Central Regional Hospital in Butner for an evaluation.
“I think he has been evaluated,” Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney Jessica Spencer said.
“He’s going back,” Hall said.
The charges against Maldonado stem from incidents in May 2018. On May 22, 2018, Maldonado allegedly told Winston-Salem police Officer N.C. Ferrell and reportedly posting on Facebook that he was going to “shoot up” Wakertown elementary, middle and high schools and also said, “I”m going to start an active shooting.”
Investigators with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office also accused Maldonado of making threats to kill two of his family members. In October 2018, Maldonado is alleged to have told Winston-Salem police Officer A.M. Cobbs that an act of mass violence was going to happen at the Walkertown schools. He is also alleged to have made a threat against Forsyth Medical Center.
On March 31, Maldonado allegedly threatened to hurt Deputy James B. Money of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
Spencer said in a previous court hearing that Maldonado made the threats to the Walkertown schools because he wanted to be famous.
In May 2018, a group of parents whose children attended the Walkertown schools protested the bond Maldonado received. They said they wanted the law changed so that anyone threatening a school wouldn’t be let out on bail.
That was before additional charges were filed against Maldonado in October.
At a May hearing, Spencer asked that the judge increase the bond from $10,000 to $15,000. Forsyth District Judge Laurie Hutchens ruled that the bond would stay at $10,000.
Maldonado was being held in Forsyth County jail on a total bond of $62,500.
A new court date for Maldonado has not been set.