exposing the dark side of adoption
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Author: RON AVERY, Daily News Staff Writer

After a 10-day absence, Mimi Rohrer returns to a Camden courtroom today, where the question is not her guilt or innocence but her sanity.

"There's nothing the matter with me," she told reporters yesterday after a judge in Philadelphia ordered her immediate return to Camden.

However, the opinion that counts most regarding Rohrer's mental ability will be that of Dr. Walden Holl, a South Jersey psychiatrist, who was scheduled to examine her yesterday after her return to Camden.

Sources close to the case say Rohrer refused to cooperate in the examination, and also refused to talk to defense lawyer Raymond M. Brown. The sources said Rohrer is afraid she will be institutionalized.

Holl will report today to trial Judge David Eynon, who ordered the psychiatric evaluation following her flight from New Jersey and arrest in Philadelphia last week.

Legal sources say Eynon could continue the trial if Rohrer voluntarily refuses to be evaluated by the psychiatrist or refuses to come to the courtroom.

However, if Eynon finds Rohrer is unable to understand court proceeding or assist in her own defense, he can declare a mistrial. If this happens, she could be tried if she regains competency in the future.

Rohrer, 43, disappeared last week in the middle of her murder trial in the beating death of her 2-year-old adopted son, Billy, in 1975.

She was seen in Washington at the congressional office of Rep. Geraldine Ferarro and at Walter Mondale's campaign headquarters. She was arrested the next day in Philadelphia.

Her extradition to New Jersey was requested by Gov. Thomas Kean and approved Monday by Gov. Thornburgh.

At a brief hearing yesterday before Common Pleas Judge Ned. L. Hirsh, Rohrer was turned over to Camden County authorities.

Rohrer reportedly fled because Eynon had refused her request to fire Brown, and replace him with attorney Nino V. Tinari, of Philadelphia.

Tinari, who represented Rohrer in Philadelphia, charged that Rohrer's rights were "being trampled" because of the speed of the extradition hearing.

Hirsh denied Tinari's request for more time, refusing to stay his order an hour so Tinari could file an appeal of the extradition order.

As she was taken from the courtroom, Rohrer told reporters she "felt fine." She also said, "I have the right to be represented by the lawyer of my choice."

Rohrer said she has been unable to fire Brown because her husband, William G. Rohrer, a wealthy banker and longtime mayor of Haddon Township, is paying Brown's bills.

Brown has also asked Eynon to be released as Rohrer's lawyer. The judge said he will rule on the request after the competency hearing.

In the meantime, the jurors have been waiting in limbo for more than two weeks. They have been told not to return to Superior Court until Monday.

If the trial continues, they will be questioned on what they know about Rohrer's flight and how it will affect their judgment.

Rohrer left New Jersey following three weeks of jury selection and two weeks of testimony. She was freed on her own recognizance after a state grand jury indicted her on murder charges in December 1982.

She is now being held without bail in the women's annex of the Camden County Jail.

The Rohrers had traveled to El Salvador in 1975 and adopted two orphans, William III, called Billy, and Laura, both about 2 years old.

Three months after the adoption, Billy died of brain injuries. Mimi Rohrer told police the boy was self-destructive and would injure himself during

violent temper tantrums.

Camden County authorities accepted this explanation and ruled that Billy had died from self-inflicted injuries. But the New Jersey Commission of Investigations looked into the case and reported in 1979 that the investigation had been botched. A new state investigation led to the charge of second-degree murder, which carries a 30-year jail term.

1984 Oct 18