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Murder case against Larry Millete on hold pending mental evaluation

Defense makes motion two weeks before evidence was set to be presented in open court.

CHULA VISTA, Calif. — The murder case against Chula Vista father, Larry Millete, is on hold pending a mental evaluation of the defendant.

Millete, 40, is charged with the murder of his wife, Maya Millete, in January 2021.  Her body has not been found.

Thursday’s defense motion for a mental evaluation (under Penal Code 1368) came just two and a half weeks before evidence in the case was supposed to be presented in a preliminary hearing that was set for June 27.

Judge Dwayne Moring suspended criminal proceedings against MIllete during Thursdays hearing, setting a mental evaluation for June 27, and a hearing to review psychiatrist reports in August.

Millete’s attorney, Bonita Martinez, told CBS 8 she wanted experts to evaluate her client, not to delay the case, but to make sure he's mentally fit to stand trial.

With Millete jailed without bail, Martinez said, not being able to see his children has taken a mental toll on her client.

“Usually, defense attorneys do not want the client to be declared incompetent if they're competent,” said veteran defense attorney, Gretchen von Helms, who is not associated with the Millete case.

She said two county-paid psychiatrists will now examine Millete and then issue a written report to the court.

“They have tools -- because they're medical doctors -- to see if he's faking it, which is called malingering, and they're able to tell if someone genuinely understands what the charges are and is able to assist his lawyer's defense of him for the case,” said von Helms.

Maya's sister and brother-in-law, Maricris and Richard Drouaillet, told CBS 8 they are frustrated by what they see as a delay tactic. They were not surprised, however, because the District Attorney’s office had warned them the defense move might happen.

The mental evaluation process can take a few months, or much longer, if Millete requires treatment in a state mental hospital, according to von Helms.

“They do medication, electroshock therapy, talk therapy, other types of therapy to restore the person to competency, if possible,” said von Helms.

The next hearing in the case will now be August 29 in a downtown San Diego courtroom, before a judge who deals specifically with mental competency issues.

Family member said a team of trained volunteers continues to search for Maya on weekends, though the locations of those searches are no longer publicly posted on social media.

WATCH: Entire June 9, 2022 hearing for Larry Millete in Chula Vista court

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