When 90-year-old John Cross Sr. appeared in court Thursday to face charges of murdering his 84-year-old wife, it's possible he heard almost nothing.
Cross, rolled into the Beaufort County Courthouse in a wheelchair, suffers from a litany of health problems, his attorney Ann Stirling told Judge Carmen Mullen at his bond hearing. Among them is partial deafness.
The bullet he fired into his head June 24 after allegedly slashing his wife Page to death remains lodged there. He must have a device implanted in his mouth to keep germs from going into his brain as a result of that wound. He can only stand for a short time and only then with the help of a walker. He has a dermatological condition. He is blind in one eye.
"I doubt he can hear what we're saying," Stirling told the judge.
Warrants on charges of murder and possession of a weapon in the commission of a violent crime were served at the courthouse just before the bond hearing.
When Cross learned of those charges Thursday morning, Stirling said he "fell apart." She said he misses his wife of 62 years. Cross did not speak during his bond hearing.
Mullen set a $100,000 personal-recognizance bond on the condition Cross remain at Savannah Cottage of Chatham, a secure medical center where he has been receiving medical and psychiatric treatment. Mullen also ordered Cross to undergo an evaluation to determine if he is mentally competent to stand trial. He is only allowed to leave the facility for medical appointments and only then in the company of a caretaker or relative.
Cross has no criminal record, and the couple did not have a history of domestic violence, attorneys said.
"I don't think he is a risk to the community," Mullen said. "He is more of a risk to himself than anyone."
A FAMILY MOURNS
Page Cross was found dead in the couple's home in the Seabrook of Hilton Head retirement community with a stab wound to her chest and cuts on her wrists, 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone said.
John Cross was alive in a nearby room, with cuts on his wrist and the self-inflicted gunshot wound.
He has been receiving medical treatment for those injuries since that Sunday afternoon. He was first taken to Hilton Head Hospital, then to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah. He was later transferred to Savannah Cottage of Chatham for treatment, Stirling said.
On Thursday, several Cross family members were in the courtroom to support him. The group included his son, John Cross Jr., and daughter-in-law, Amy Cross, of Hilton Head Island. Other relatives traveled from Ohio for the hearing, Stirling said. The family is bearing the cost of his care, Stirling said.
The family declined comment after the hearing, and Stirling asked that reporters not attempt to speak to them anymore.
After the hearing, the defendant was taken to the Beaufort County Detention Center, where he briefly donned an orange jumpsuit and had his mugshot made. He was then taken back to the Savannah facility.
Stone declined to reveal the suspected motive in Page Cross' death. He also did not know if John Cross Sr. had been diagnosed with any medical condition such as Alzheimer's or dementia. The Savannah Cottage of Chatham offers assisted living for those with Alzheimer's and other forms of memory loss, according to its website.
"My concern is that he obviously attempted suicide, and the bullet is still lodged in ... his sinus cavity -- that's the extent of the medical knowledge I have," Stone said. "Our main concern is that he remains in a locked-down facility and that he continues to receive the psychiatric treatment he needs."
The charges against him will now be heard by a grand jury, which will decide whether to indict him.