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Elk Grove octogenarian faces trial after prosecution rejects dementia claims

Anh Thai, 84, was arrested and booked into Sacramento County jail Feb. 23 in the stabbing death of his 77-year-old wife.
Anh Thai, 84, was arrested and booked into Sacramento County jail Feb. 23 in the stabbing death of his 77-year-old wife. Elk Grove Police Department

An Elk Grove octogenarian accused of stabbing his wife to death in February will stand trial next month after the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday rejected an evaluation by two doctors that the man was mentally unsound.

Wearing an orange jumpsuit, Anh Thai, 85, appeared frail and grabbed the steel cage bars for support as he walked into court late Wednesday morning. As his Vietnamese interpreter and court-appointed attorney, Norm Dawson, consulted, Thai nodded his head several times.

Thai was arrested Feb. 23 by Elk Grove police on suspicion of killing his wife, Xuan Xa, 77, at their Laguna-area home. The family said Thai suffers from dementia.

“Both doctors indicate he is incompetent to stand trial,” Dawson told Superior Court Judge Bummi O. Awoniyi.

There was disagreement over the findings, however.

Donell Slivka, deputy district attorney, argued that the reports were inconclusive. “This is something that needs to be heard before a jury,” she said.

The two court-appointed doctors completed a series of tests on cognitive function for Thai, who faces a murder charge. Dawson had hoped to reach an agreement with prosecutors not to try the case.

If prosecutors had accepted the doctors’ recommendations, Thai would have likely been transferred to a medical facility like Napa State Hospital for treatment, Dawson said. And if rehabilitation wasn’t a possibility, like in cases of dementia, the suspect would remain at the locked facility indefinitely.

The couple’s daughter, Tai Thai, 51, was in court Wednesday to watch the proceeding. She described the alleged killing as an accident and voiced concern about her father’s well-being.

“I believe my father is very sick,” said Tai Thai, who is one of seven children.

Holding back tears, she said, “Every time I see him behind bars, I feel pain,” adding that the family wants him to get treatment.

Thai’s trial is tentatively scheduled to begin Oct. 26. He remains in custody at the Sacramento County Main Jail.

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