Gas Station Crowbar Attack Suspect Incompetent to Stand Trial: Judge

Clare Lyle Neighbour, 56, allegedly attacked a younger man with a crowbar at a gas station

By Monica Garske
|  Wednesday, May 29, 2013  |  Updated 1:28 PM PDT
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Crowbar Attack Suspect Incompetent to Stand Trial

NBC 7 San Diego

The scene of the Feb. 23 crowbar attack at a gas station in Valencia Park.

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A man accused of brutally beating a victim with a crowbar at a local gas station has been deemed not competent to stand trial, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

Back on Feb. 23, suspect Clare Lyle Neighbour, 56, allegedly attacked 25-year-old Carlos Ramirez with a crowbar at the Express Gas station located at 5109 Imperial Ave. in San Diego’s Valencia Park area.

Investigators say the violent attack happened just before 3 a.m., after both Neighbour and Ramirez stopped at the same gas station.

Police say Neighbour drove into the gas station and told the clerk he needed gas, but had no money. The clerk refused to give him gas.

Shortly thereafter, Ramirez and his girlfriend pulled into the gas station.

As Ramirez was pumping gas, prosecutors say Neighbour asked him for money, but Ramirez declined and went about his business.

Neighbour then allegedly got a crowbar out of the trunk of his car and threatened Ramirez’s girlfriend. As Ramirez approached Neighbour, the suspect struck him in the neck.

Ramirez fell to the ground and prosecutors say Neighbour continued to beat him in the head with the crowbar, striking Ramirez at least 25 times in the violent attack.

Neighbour then fled the gas station.

Ramirez sustained a serious head injury and was taken to a local hospital. His girlfriend was not injured in the crowbar attack.

Neighbour was arrested by authorities two days later, on Feb. 25, in Huntington Beach, Calif.

He was turned over to San Diego police that same day, and he was booked into San Diego Central Jail on attempted murder, aggravated mayhem and attempted robbery charges.

On Feb. 27, Neighbour pleaded not guilty to the charges. His bail was set at $1.5 million.

During that hearing, Deputy DA Chris Moon gave a brief update on Ramirez’s condition stemming from the brutal beating.

“As a result of that attack, the victim nearly died. He suffered a brain hemorrhage [and] fractures in his skull. He lost consciousness as well. And, it’s unclear what the prognosis will be going forward,” said Moon.

On Wednesday, more than three months after the assault, Neighbour appeared in court again for a mental competency hearing.

Judge Joseph Brannigan ruled Neighbour is not mentally competent to stand trial, and instead will be sent to Patton State Hospital for treatment for up to three years.

Neighbour faced life in prison if convicted of all charges, but after reviewing medical reports, Judge Brannigan ruled that Neighbour does not understand the charges against him and is incompetent to stand trial.

According to Moon, Neighbour is a former resident of Washington state and appeared to be living out of his car at the time of the Feb. 23 attack. He has no direct ties to San Diego.

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