Family: Aunt, 96, Had Made Threats

Published On: Oct 03 2011 03:54:49 PM EDT
Updated On: Sep 27 2011 09:11:35 AM EDT
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -

The family of a 53-year-old St. Augustine man says his 96-year-old aunt accused of killing him made angry threats against him in the weeks leading up to his shooting death Sunday night.

The family says the threats were made -- then acted on -- by the man's aunt.

Police say Amanda Stevenson killed her nephew, John Rice -- shooting him in the chest while he was lying in bed.

John Rice's widow, Deborah, found her husband's body and called 911.

She said Tuesday that she and her husband took in his elderly aunt because nobody else in the family wanted to deal with her.

Rice, who described Stevenson as erratic, mean and paranoid, said she had threatened to shoot her husband several times before.

Rice said the gun used to kill her husband belonged to Stevenson. She said she never actually saw a gun in her house, but had heard Stevenson reference it often, usually in threats against her husband.

According to Rice, Stevenson would say, "I'm going to blow John away with my .357."

Police said they found the weapon used to kill John Rice, a .357 magnum handgun, on the outside of the house. Deborah Rice said she believes Stevenson intentionally hid the weapon there.

Rice said her husband told Stevenson she needed to be out of the house by the end of the month, and that the aunt and nephew bickered over their living conditions many times.

Rice said she doesn't know what state of mind Stevenson is in. Defense attorney Janet Johnson, who's not associated with this case, said Stevenson's competency to stand trial is a major question.

"Her behavior in court, even from just watching the video, was she didn't seem to appreciate the severity of what happened," Johnson said. "So that's going to be an issue towards her competency and her sanity."

Johnson said Stevenson's public defender will need to make sure certain evaluations are made to determine if Stevenson is even fit for trial.

"He'll have to get a doctor appointed to evaluate whether she's competent, even to assist her attorney," Johnson said. "That's the first question: Can she help her lawyer? Can she understand this process that she's in?"

Stevenson's next court date is not set.

She's being held at the St. Johns County Jail without bail.

"She is in general population with other females, and obviously our medical staff is going to monitor her for any health conditions," said Catherine Payne, of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.

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