Titonka man competent to stand trial, pleads not guilty in murder of Ventura woman in Britt

GARNER — A Titonka man accused of murdering a Ventura woman in Britt in March has been found competent to stand trial and has pleaded not guilty. 

56-year-old Monte Eckels is accused of fatally stabbing Leallen Bergman while inside a residence at 275 4th Street Southeast in Britt on the night of March 4th. Eckels was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, a Class A felony punishable by life in prison without the opportunity for parole.

Prior to Eckels’ scheduled arraignment in April, his attorney stated that after meeting with him several times, Eckels had exhibited signs of a mental health disorder that would prevent him from appreciating the charge, understanding the proceedings or assisting effectively in his own defense. After being ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale, the center’s staff psychiatrist filed a report recently that found Eckels was competent to stand trial.

During a hearing on Tuesday in Hancock County District Court, both the prosecution and defense did not object to the report and Eckels filed a plea of not guilty.

His trial is scheduled to start on September 20th.