An inmate who admitted to walking away from the state penitentiary and murdering an elderly Sioux Falls woman to go on a cross-country killing spree will face life in prison or the death penalty.
James McVay, 41, committed the crimes in July 2011. He pleaded guilty, but mentally ill in December. He was back in court Tuesday to face the results of a mandatory psychiatric evaluation that says McVay is sane and can move forward with his plea.
"I don't think it was a surprise to anyone that had read the report. And the doctor was quite confident in his diagnosis and analysis today from what came through at the hearing," Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan said.
McGowan said the finding also does not change his plan to push for the death penalty in McVay's case. Six hours of psychiatric evaluation concluded McVay knew the consequences of his actions including shoplifting drugs, alcohol and clothes, breaking into the home of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein and murdering her to steal her car.
"Mr. McVay was sane at the time he committed the offense," McGowan said. "There is some mental illness but nothing to the degree he would not know the wrongfulness of his actions."
McVay pleaded guilty, but mentally ill last month. That plea keeps all possible punishments on the table, including the death penalty the state is asking for. His defense team told a judge though he was deemed fit for trial, he was moving forward with a guilty plea against their legal advice.
Ultimately, it could be up to a jury to decide if McVay dies for his admitted crimes or spends the rest of his life in prison.
No dates have been set for a sentencing hearing yet. The state's attorney says it could be months away, and he expects several motion hearings before that time.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A grammatical error was corrected in this story.