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Trial in Des Moines trucking murders delayed due to competency question about alleged shooter

A former truck driver charged with killing two men during a dispute at the trucking company’s office in May will not be facing Polk County jurors on Monday after all.

Lawyers for Ronald James Hawkinson instead won a delay in the scheduled Jan. 7 trial so that doctors can address concerns about the defendant’s mental ability to understand what’s going on in the case.

Hawkinson, 39, faces two charges of first-degree murder in connection with the May shooting deaths of Sherif Hidic, 30, and Robert Smoot, 49, at a southeast Des Moines trucking company.

Hawkinson had feuded with Hidic over money for months before the shooting, court records show. Police say the two somehow ended up in an argument on the grounds of Seibert Trucking and LCS Logistics, 1928 S.E. 15th Court, on May 17.

Initial police reports last summer said Smoot, who worked at LCS Logistics, appeared to have been shot when he walked in on the confrontation.

Des Moines police found the bodies of Hidic and Smoot in a storage shed at LCS Logistics, a company with ties to Hidic that leased space from Seibert Trucking.

Court papers filed last month, while providing no details, say an Ames psychologist “has advised that he believes the defendant suffers from a mental disorder potentially affecting his competency to stand trial.”

Hawkinson, who had been housed at the Polk County Jail, was ordered transferred to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale for treatment. Polk County officials are waiting for a report from doctors there before deciding what to do with the murder trial.

A different, prosecution-paid expert also had been scheduled to evaluate Hawkinson’s competency and submit an independent opinion.

Polk County court records show Hidic filed a lawsuit against Hawkinson in November 2011 alleging that Hawkinson had defaulted on a $13,000 loan and failed to repay another $1,100 that a trucking company — Drina Trucking — loaned Hawkinson to make a child support payment.

Documents say the $13,000 loan was supposed to have been used by Hawkinson to buy a truck that then was to be contracted out to Drina Trucking, a company with ties to Hidic, according to Iowa Secretary of State records.

But Hawkinson violated an oral contract by using that truck to work for a different company, Hidic alleged. Hidic’s lawsuit sought repayment for the $13,000 loan, the child support payment, and another $2,000 that the company allegedly spent to hire a replacement driver.

Hawkinson apparently believed he had been shortchanged by Drina Trucking. Documents filed in the court case by Hawkinson include an argument that Drina Trucking charged Hawkinson for things the company shouldn’t have and failed to pay him everything he was owed from his trucking runs.

Court papers say Hawkinson sought other work because of his inability to get a proper accounting from Drina: “I have been left with a credit reputation obligated to pay for a truck, and the only way to protect interest is to work where there are receipts.”

Source: des Moines Register

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