Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman plans to prosecute James Troutman herself for allegedly killing 9-year-old Skyler Kauffman in Souderton last week, according to Troutman's attorney.
Ferman did not return calls for comment yesterday. When reached by phone last night, First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele said he believes that Ferman will prosecute the case.
"I think she's going to do it," he said. "It all depends on scheduling. It's either her or me."
Troutman, 24, is accused of raping and murdering Skyler on May 9 in the basement of the apartment building where they both lived.
Troutman's preliminary hearing, which was scheduled for today, has been postponed until Monday, said Troutman's attorney, Craig Penglase.
On Monday, Troutman will appear via video conference from prison and will waive his hearing, Penglase said.
"Waiving the hearing is not an indication of where the case is going to go from here," said Penglase, a criminal defense attorney who formerly served as an assistant district attorney in Bucks County. "It's just the right decision at the right time."
Among the reasons for waiving the hearing, Penglase said, is that he wants to demonstrate a sense of cooperation with the District Attorney's Office.
Calling it a "confession case," Penglase said that at Troutman's preliminary hearing the prosecutors would most likely present as witnesses only the detective who took Troutman's alleged confession and the medical examiner who examined Skyler's body.
Penglase said that he was privately retained this week to be Troutman's defense attorney, but he declined to say by whom.
Penglase said that he has met with his client several times and that Troutman is in segregation, alone in a cell at the Montgomery County Prison.
"He's being treated very fairly by the correctional facility," Penglase said. "However, given the nature of the charges, it's understandable he's not the most popular inmate they have."
He said that competency and mental-health evaluations are "forthcoming" for Troutman, who, he said, has "self-reported" having Asperger's syndrome.
"Obviously, mental health is a component of the case," he said. "How much a part, we don't know yet."
Prosecutors have not told Penglase whether they plan to pursue the death penalty in the case, but he said that they've indicated there are aggravating factors that would make it a possibility.