Months after a claim of insanity provoked an emotional response in court, a Warren County homicide case is moving toward trial.Ralph A. Atkinson (Courtesy photo)
Ralph Atkinson has been imprisoned since May 2014, when he was accused of killing his girlfriend, 45-year-old Margaret Graf-White, with a knife and hammer at the woman's West Stewart Street home in Washington. He has been indicted on a first-degree murder charge and related counts.
The 41-year-old Atkinson, of Knowlton Township, appeared Thursday in state Superior Court in Belvidere, wearing green jail garb and shackles, his hair wild and his beard scraggly and graying.
During the brief hearing, Warren County Assistant Prosecutor Victor Jusino said the state has offered Atkinson a 28-year prison sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated manslaughter.
2013 P'burg slaying case heads to trial again
Atkinson's attorney, John McGuigan of the public defender's office, said a state report presumably regarding his client's mental state had been received and further evaluation is being considered.
Judge H. Matthew Curry set a pretrial conference -- a hearing in which a trial date is typically scheduled -- for March 23.
In a separate case, Atkinson was indicted on a charge of first-degree aggravated sexual assault and related crimes for allegedly recording sex acts with a child between 2012 and 2014. Those charges were not addressed in Thursday's hearing.
Prosecutors have said the cases would be tried separately.
In a hearing last June regarding the first-degree murder case, a woman left the courtroom in tears after learning about Atkinson's possible insanity plea.
"It's a horrible thing and he's going to get away with it because of an insanity plea," the woman told court staff in the hallway.
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