TWIN FALLS — A elderly man accused of murdering an 81-year-old woman in August 2015 has died.
Paul Welch, 88, was ruled incompetent to assist in his own defense and never stood trial in the death of Barbara Sue Chitwood. He had been indicted by a grand jury on a charge of first-degree murder.
He was moved from the Twin Falls County Jail to State Hospital South’s Syringa Chalet Nursing Facility in Blackfoot, and the case had been put on inactive status. Judge Richard Bevan had ordered Welch to undergo treatment aimed at restoring his competence, but lawyers said in December that Welch suffered from dementia and other “late-life ailments” and that he would likely die before the case was resolved.
Welch died Sept. 6 at State Hospital South, Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said. His death ends the criminal case. He was buried in Twin Falls Cemetery, according to a notice of his funeral service.
In her will, Chitwood described Welch as “a good friend.”
According to neighbors, the two lived together after Welch’s wife died in 2012. Authorities said he shot Chitwood to death in the home they shared.
Welch’s health led the trial to be delayed, and Bevan ordered the mental competency evaluation in January 2016. A series of errors and miscommunications led to further delay. Bevan ruled in September 2016, based on doctors’ reports, that Welch was incompetent.
Bevan moved the case to inactive status and appointed a Washington man who was described as a close friend who was “like his son,” to be Welch’s legal guardian and conservator.
Loebs said last year that the case would remain active as long as there was a chance that Welch could become competent, but Welch’s lawyers said treatment aimed at restoring competency were a long-shot.
“We anticipate he’ll be there until he passes away,” Deputy Attorney General Justin Seamons said late last year.
Police found Chitwood dead of a gunshot wound to the head on Aug. 21, 2015. That night, Welch was taken to a hospital with unknown injuries.
In court documents filed that week, Welch told police he would attempt to kill himself “again” if set free.
At the time, a neighbor described the two as “both nice people.”
Detectives reported finding a pistol and ammunition belonging to Welch, and said he was the only other person in the house at the time of the shooting.