Man accused of murder with machete found not guilty by reason of insanity

NEW BERN, NC (WITN) Nearly five years after the horrific murders of three children by a man with a machete, the suspect has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Craven County District Attorney Scott Thomas announced in a press release Thursday that after a two-day hearing last month, Resident Superior Court Judge Josh Willey came to the decision.

In March of 2015 police say Eh Lar Doh Htoo, 23, forced himself into a neighbor's home on Pasteur Street in New Bern where he killed three boys, ages 12, 5 and 1, with a machete.

Thomas says the boys' older sister, 14 at the time, jumped out a second story window to escape while the mother got Htoo to chase her out of the house but he eventually gave up, allowing her to survive as well.

New Bern police officers responded to the house and immediately placed Htoo under arrest.

Htoo, a Burmese refugee as were with the victims, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder, one count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting seriously injury, felony breaking and entering and larceny after breaking and entering.

Doctors determined in 2015 that Htoo was not competent to stand trial. Over the course of the next four years, experts along with antipsychotic medication brought Htoo to a level of competence necessary to proceed in court.

Following the improvements, Thomas says the defense then asserted the insanity defense.

The insanity hearings took place last month and involved many testimonies including from the surviving family members and the police officers that responded to the scene.

Ultimately, Htoo was adjudged not guilty by reason of insanity and was taken to the secure and locked facility at Central Regional Hospital, as required by law.

Thomas says until Htoo can prove he no longer suffers from schizophrenia and that he is no longer a danger to others, he will remain confined in that facility.

District Attorney Scott Thomas said, “My office contested and argued against a final determination of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI). While we do not like this result, we understand how the judge reached his decision based upon the law and the defendant’s numerous and extensive mental evaluations. Judge Willey has committed Htoo to a locked and secure State psychiatric facility. We will do all we can under the law to keep Htoo in this locked facility in the future. The surviving family of these three child victims has been involved with us throughout this legal process. Our prayers are with them as they continue to suffer from this tragic loss. We continue to
remain in touch with them and provide all available assistance.”