Crime - Sacto 911

Man accused in death of 3-year-old girl to get mental fitness assessed

Doctors will determine the mental fitness of the Arkansas man held on murder charges after his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter was found dead in their SUV at a Rancho Cordova park in June.

Untwan Smith's criminal proceedings were halted Thursday by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Richard Sueyoshi after defense attorney Alan Whisenant said he doubted his client's competency to stand trial. Smith, held without bail at Sacramento County Main Jail since his June arrest in the child's death at River Bend Park, refused to appear in court and was absent from the morning hearing.

Whisenant and prosecuting Sacramento County deputy District Attorney Nancy Cochrane agreed to have a doctor from University of California, Davis examine Smith, 46. Sueyoshi set a Dec. 28 date to hear the findings.

Angela Phakhin, Smith's girlfriend and the child's mother, appeared briefly before Smith's name was called. Sueyoshi had planned to set a preliminary hearing date in her murder case, but defense attorney Robert Saria asked Sueyoshi for a delay until Smith's competency reports are heard Dec. 28. Phakhin, 28, remains held without bail at Sacramento County Main Jail.

Rancho Cordova officers found the body of Phakhin's daughter June 28 covered by blankets in the back of the Arkansas couple's sport utility vehicle. Officers initially checked the SUV because it was parked the wrong way near the entrance to River Bend Park along the American River Parkway.

There were no obvious signs of trauma to the child’s body, officials said at the time.

The officers found Smith and Phakhin outside the vehicle and later discovered Smith had an outstanding warrant out of Arkansas. The couple said they had been living out of their car since coming to California in February.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

Related stories from Sacramento Bee