PROVO A former Brigham Young University student accused of attempting to kill his then-pregnant wife with poisons was found mentally competent Tuesday to stand trial.
But just moments after that announcement, both the prosecuting and defense attorneys said that a plea deal is in the works to avoid a trial.
After spending more than a month undergoing a mental evaluation, Paul Turner appeared in Provo's 4th District Court Tuesday morning with public defense attorney Tom Means.
Means said two evaluations conducted by two psychiatrists showed that Turner was mentally competent to stand trial on four counts of first-degree counts of attempted aggravated murder. Means said he requested the mental evaluation out of concern that Turner was suffering from a "diminished mental state" at the time of the alleged crimes.
Deputy Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman confirmed that a deal had been offered for Turner to plead guilty to reduced charges.
"We're talking and we've made an offer," Buhman said. Neither Buhman nor Means would disclose any details of the plea deal.
A court hearing has been set for Feb. 18, when Turner is expected to enter a plea to reduced charges.
Police say the 26-year-old former electrical engineering student called police on Oct. 28 of last year at the urging of his LDS bishop. Turner allegedly confessed to trying to kill his wife by lacing cookies with rat poison. On a second attempt, Turner allegedly switched his wife's medication with hydrochloric acid.
During a preliminary hearing in November, his wife, Sarah Turner, testified that she thought the cookies baked by her husband looked funny and declined to eat them.
As for the medication, Sarah Turner said she had been taking injections to prevent blood clots from forming during her pregnancy. She testified that the hydrochloric acid hurt a great deal but did not cause any serious harm.
Police say Sarah Turner and the baby were not seriously hurt by the poisoning attempts.
According to police, Turner made a third attempt on his wife's life by putting what he thought were poisonous mushrooms into a spaghetti sauce.
In court Tuesday, Means said Turner had requested visits with his 1-year-old child.
The request comes in apparent opposition to a no-contact order, which required Turner to avoid any communication with the victims in the case.
Buhman objected to the request, saying that the infant can be considered a victim. Turner should have no contact with his child, he said.
Outside court, Means said Turner has been in jail since his arrest last October and has not been able to see his child. Means told the court that the baby would be brought to the Utah County Jail by Turner's parents and that he would continue to have no contact with his wife, who defense attorneys have said has expressed an interest in mending their marriage.Judge Anthony Schofield deferred ruling on the request until a plea is entered in two weeks.