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Year in state hospital ordered for man accused in triple slaying

SALT LAKE CITY — A man accused of killing a grandmother, her 2-month-old granddaughter and another man was ordered to receive a year of treatment at the Utah State Hospital on Monday.

According to jail officials, he had been transferred to the state hospital on Friday, six months after being ordered to receive treatment in order for his case to advance.

A recent Deseret News investigation revealed that mentally ill Utahns who are charged with crimes but found incompetent to proceed in court are waiting an average of five months before being transferred to the state hospital for treatment, far longer than wait times in other Western states.

Alexander Hung Tran, 33, appeared in court Monday just long enough to schedule a review hearing next year. He spoke only to thank a bailiff for untucking his sweatshirt from a spot where it was tucked into the chain used to shackle his hands at his waist.

Tran is charged with three counts of aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, in the September 2015 deaths of Heike Poike, 50; Poike's 2-month-old granddaughter, Lyrik Poike; and Dakota Smith, 28.

After more than a year with little progress in the case, Tran was found incompetent to face the charges in December 2016, meaning he is unable to fully understand the charges against him and communicate with his attorney as the case proceeds.

According to court records, Tran has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Psychiatrists who reviewed Tran wrote that he "comprehends that he is charged with aggravated murder and that three people were killed in his house, but he appears to lack an appreciation of their significance."

The evaluators also wrote that Tran's "religious delusions" prevent him from understanding that he could face penalties because of the charges.

Poike rented the upstairs area of Tran's home, 639 N. Sir Phillip Drive (1990 West). Their bodies were discovered after Poike's 8-year-old grandson wasn't picked up from school that afternoon. Police say each victim was shot multiple times.

Four days before the killings, Tran told his mother that other people were living in the house that she had purchased for him. She told him that the people couldn't be there, charging documents state.

"(The mother) instructed Tran to tell the people to go and stated she would start the eviction process," the charges state. On the day of the shootings, Tran called his mother again and allegedly told her "the people upstairs were gone."

A search warrant unsealed in October 2015 indicate he was diagnosed as "paranoid schizophrenic" just a few months before the killings. According to the warrant, police had been called to Tran's home on a "possible psychotic problem" after his parents reported he was brandishing scissors and kitchen knives.

Police wrote that Tran's mother and stepfather "appeared to be extremely frightened of Alex and refused to go back inside the house." The couple told police at the time that Tran had no history of mental illness or addiction.

Tran will return to court for a review hearing on June 11, 2018.