Mother of Indiana student murdered in 1997 wants inmate cleared for execution

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FRANKLIN, Indiana — The mother of an Indiana college student killed nearly 17 years ago says it is time for the man convicted of her murder and rape to be executed.

A four-day court hearing is scheduled to begin Tuesday in South Bend during which attorneys for 47-year-old Michael Dean Overstreet will try to convince a judge that he's too mentally ill to face execution.

Overstreet was given a death sentence in 2000 after being convicted of abducting, raping and killing 18-year-old Kelly Eckart of Boggstown in September 1997. The Franklin College student was abducted as she was returning home from work at a Franklin store. She was found strangled in a ravine in Brown County with a bullet wound in her head.

Eckart's mother, Connie Sutton, told the Daily Journal she doesn't believe Overstreet is suffering from delusions and hallucinations as doctors describe. Sutton groaned and shook her head as she talked about her frustration with what she believes are attempts to build sympathy for Overstreet.

"He's going in there as a convicted murderer. But that's a lot of what we're going to be hearing, 'Oh, poor him. Poor him,'" Sutton said. "I can't even, I don't even want to go there."

The state Supreme Court ordered last year that Overstreet be given a chance to make his mental illness case, despite the rejection of his previous appeals by state and federal courts. The justices said a U.S. Supreme Court decision makes it illegal to execute a person who is so severely mentally ill they do not understand the crime they committed.

Defense attorney Steve Schutte tells The Indianapolis Star an appeal to the state Supreme Court is likely if the judge rules Overstreet is competent for execution.

Psychiatrist Rahn Bailey wrote in a report to the court that Overstreet has a long history of behavioral problems and mental illness, including growing up with an abusive father and battling alcoholism.

After evaluating Overstreet three times early last year, Bailey determined that Overstreet has severe paranoid-type schizophrenia that is causing delusions, despite four psychotropic medications he takes daily.

It is uncertain when a ruling will be made by St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Jane Woodward Miller, who hasn't been involved with Overstreet's case before.

Sutton said she hoped the judge will reject Overstreet's new attempt to avoid the death sentence.

"I've got to believe in the system. I've believed in it so far," she said.

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