The mental competency has been called into question of a man who allegedly threatened to torture family members with a machete before driving the family pickup truck off the side of a cliff and 500 feet down an embankment – with family members onboard – last summer.
Sean McClelland, 46, of Newhall, appeared Tuesday in San Fernando Superior Court where his competency was questioned.
He was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation and return to court for a “1368 hearing” on Feb. 2 with the findings. “That’s a hearing to get an update on the mental health status of the defendant,” Ricardo Santiago, spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office told The Signal Wednesday.
Section 1368 of the California Penal Code states: “If, during the pendency of an action and prior to judgment, a doubt arises in the mind of the judge as to the mental competence of the defendant, he or she shall state that doubt in the record and inquire of the attorney for the defendant whether, in the opinion of the attorney, the defendant is mentally competent.”
McClelland was arrested July 4, 2016, on suspicion of kidnapping and assault after he allegedly threatened to take family members who were allegedly with him at the time into the mountain and torture them with a machete.
He then drove a family pickup truck off the side of a cliff – more than 500 feet down an embankment with two members of the family in the truck.
For more than an hour prior to his arrest, McClelland eluded firefighters in the steep hillside brush south of Templin Highway off the northbound lanes of Interstate 5, near the freeway’s upper crossover after the pickup truck he was in crashed, officials said.
McClelland, who was injured, was transported to a hospital via a Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter. A man, identified as his father, was also injured and taken to the hospital, Lt. Rob Hahnlein of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station told The Signal at the time of McLelland’s arrest.
Dispatchers at the Los Angeles Communications Center received multiple 911 calls on July 4 reporting a vehicle had gone over the side of the freeway on northbound lanes of Interstate 5, south of CHP Road, north of Castaic, California Highway Patrol Officer Josh Greengard reported then.
“Arriving units determined it was a domestic violence, kidnapping and attempted murder/suicide,” he had said.
“Prior to driving over the side, the driver (accused) pushed one occupant out of his vehicle and drove away with one passenger still in the vehicle, against their will,” Greengard said.
McClelland had previously been arrested on June 24 on suspicion of making criminal threats, according to arrest documents maintained by the LASD’s Inmate Information Center.
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