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Dave Roepke, Published October 08 2010

Mental evaluation ordered for suspect in Fargo rape case

Doctors will examine a man accused of raping a multiple sclerosis sufferer in a public housing complex to see if he was competent enough to understand his actions and if he is able to assist in his own defense.

Todd William Naatus is charged with gross sexual imposition in connection with an incident on Sept. 2 at New Horizons Manor, a high-rise for the disabled at 2525 Broadway owned by the Fargo Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

In a hearing Thursday in Cass County District Court, Judge Lisa Fair McEvers ordered a pair of mental evaluations at the request of the defense.

Both the existing mental capacity of Naatus and his mindset at the time of the incident will be studied. If he’s deemed unable to help in his own defense, Naatus won’t be able to stand trial. If it’s ruled that he didn’t comprehend that what he was doing was wrong, he can’t be held criminally liable.

The prosecution did not oppose the motion, but did ask for the examinations to be conducted at the State Hospital in Jamestown. Fair McEvers instead granted a defense request for the exams to be done at the state Developmental Center in Grafton.

Defense attorney Patrick O’Day said Naatus has in the past been a resident at the Grafton facility. His mental capacity is limited due to childhood traumatic head injuries, O’Day said.

“He simply doesn’t function on the same levels that normal people in society do,” O’Day said.

Arlene Naatus, mother of the accused rapist, said her son had two boyhood falls in which he hit his head hard, the first when he was 2 years old at an in-store photo shoot in Jamestown.

She said Naatus is easily upset by small annoyances and is often impulsive. He needs constant supervision due to his developmental disabilities, she said.

“It’s not that he can’t learn. It’s that it takes awhile to sink in,” she said.

His mother said she just wants Naatus to “be kept safe and sound.”

“The way I look at it now is at least Todd didn’t kill anybody,” she said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535