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Chubbuck Walmart bomb threat suspect preliminary hearing postponed

By By Chris Cole
Published On: May 23 2013 01:27:22 AM CDT

Mental competency exam ordered for Chubbuck Walmart bomb threat suspect

CHUBBUCK, Idaho -

A judge has ruled the man accused of calling in a bomb threat to a Chubbuck Walmart will undergo a mental evaluation to see if he is fit to stand trial.

Lawyers say Brian Lavatta suffers from schizophrenia.

Police say on Sunday, April 28, Brian Jason Lavatta called in a bomb threat to the Chubbuck Walmart, prompting an evacuation.

But today at the Bannock County Courthouse, it was decided that he needed to undergo a mental competency exam to see if he is even fit to stand trial.

"People during the active phase of illness of schizophrenia have hallucinations or delusions,” said Dr. Ehab Abdallah, chief of psychiatric services at Portneuf Medical Center. “They can be more violent than the general public."

Abdallah says many people not only have hallucinations or delusions, they also focus on conspiracies or are certain the FBI or CIA is spying on them.

He says no one case he's seen is the same.

There are three different types of symptoms for schizophrenia: positive, negative and cognitive.

Positive symptoms include the hallucinations and delusions, like hearing, seeing or sensing things that other people cannot. There are also thought and movement disorders.

The thought disorders are known as “disorganized thinking,” and can include unusual ways of thinking. It can also affect speech, where someone may be talking and suddenly stop, possibly claiming the thought was taken out of their head.

Their speech may also be garbled and jumbled, and they may even make up words.

The movement disorders can be recognizable by repeating the same actions over and over, having agitated body movements, or even becoming catatonic, where the person does not respond to anybody or anything, and does not move at all.

This was common before there were medications available to treat schizophrenia.

The cognitive symptoms are the most subtle. They include finding it hard to make a decision, trouble paying attention and even trouble remembering information that was just explained, or working memory.

Negative symptoms disrupt thoughts and behaviors, but are very subtle as well. This can include speaking in a monotonous voice, or little or not at all, even when forced to interact.

They can also find lack of pleasure in everyday life and inability to begin and sustain planned activities.

"Some people have prominent symptoms of negative symptoms,” said Abdallah, “which is apathy, unable to feel emotions, unable to take care of themselves, hygiene issues and so on."

Schizophrenia is considered a spectrum disorder, with different sub-types like paranoia, catatonic and disorganized, and extreme emotional issues come with the territory.

While there are instances of people with schizophrenia being violent, most do not have violent tendancies.

With the cases he's seen at Portneuf Medical Center, Abdallah says it's important to maintain strong family support.

That's because families are able to help sick family members, continue trying to live as normal a life as possible.

He says southeast Idaho is a good place to find those strong family bonds.

"A lot of my patients have family still involved in their treatment plan,” he said, “Even if they have been sick for 10, 15 or 20 years."

In Idaho, there is no misdemeanor charge for falsely reporting a bomb, and there is also no plea of insanity. 

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