Competency hearing scheduled for Niles murder suspect

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2024

NILES — A competency hearing has been ordered for the Missouri man accused of shooting and killing a Niles resident last September. Jamie Phillip Perry of St. Louis had been scheduled for a case conference Wednesday as well as a mid-March trial date on trial on murder and other charges. 

Berrien County Assistant Prosecutor Kate Arnold reported Wednesday that Perry’s attorney, Chief Public Defender Scott Sanford, has requested a competency examination for his client. This week, Berrien County Trial Judge Jennifer Smith ordered Perry to have that forensic exam done. 

Arnold said a new status conference date of March 27 has been set in the case to review the competency exam results or the status of when the exam might be completed. She noted that Perry’s trial has been put on hold. Perry remains in jail on $2 million cash or surety bond. 

Perry, 29, faces four felony charges in connection with the Sept. 30 shooting death of Luke James Botica, 28, of Niles. He is charged with open murder, being a felon in possession of a firearm and two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The shooting took place at Botica’s home in the 1200 block of North 12th Street. 

Judge Smith bound Perry over for trial on the charges in early December after on-again-off-again hearings dating back to mid October.  

The Perry hearing began Oct. 17 and was continued on Oct. 24, Nov. 28 and Dec. 5. Testimony was heard Oct. 17 but was delayed Oct. 24 and Nov. 28 when Perry fired his public defender Carri Briseno and said he would defend himself. Perry reversed himself Dec. 5 and agreed to let Sanford represent him. 

Judge Smith stated that she found probable cause that Perry had committed the crimes. She went over the evidence presented including witness testimony and the autopsy report. She also noted that Perry had a previous felony conviction for burglary in Missouri. 

Neighbor Michael White said he met Perry earlier on Sept. 30 when Botica brought him by after picking Perry up at the train station. White, who is hard of hearing, said he got the impression Perry and Botica didn’t know each other well. He said Botica told him Perry owed him $7,000 and was going to help Botica start a marijuana grow operation. 

White said Perry had a gun in the waistband of his pants and the three were talking, eating pizza and smoking and drinking most of the evening. He said he wasn’t paying attention to what Perry and Botica were doing until he heard raised voices, saw Botica put up his hands and Perry shooting him.