Burlco woman, 77, ruled incompetent in husband's death

Posted: April 24, 2013

What Fredricka Rosa said she saw that night last July was horrifying: Her husband, Valpa C. Rosa Sr., then 79, was in bed, sexually assaulting their granddaughter.

So the 76-year-old woman picked up a .357 Magnum, shot her husband in the head, and wound up being charged with murder in Burlington County, the county prosecutor said.

The sexual assault "wasn't happening," her daughter, Rosetta Rosa, said Monday, outside a Burlington County courtroom, as her mother, now 77, waited nearby in a wheelchair.

"She hallucinates. It's Alzheimer's. It was all in her mind," Rosetta Rosa said.

What's not a hallucination is that Valpa Rosa is dead, probably shot on July 19, although the police didn't come to the couple's home in Browns Mills until two days later, when they were alerted by one of the couple's children, who lives out of state.

Given the drama of the story, what happened on Monday in Mount Holly was fairly routine.

Superior Court Judge Terrence R. Cook ruled, in a short proceeding, that he accepted a medical evaluation that Fredricka Rosa was not mentally competent to stand trial.

Deputy first assistant prosecutor James Ronca did not contest the report. There will be another evaluation, and the court will consider Rosa's competency again on July 22.

At that point, Ronca said, the judge can either ask that the charges be droppedor wait a few more months and have her competency reevaluated. By law, defendants must be able to participate in their own defense.

Fredricka Rosa remains free on 10 percent of $150,000 bail, posted by her family.

In an interview, Ronca was careful to distinguish between Monday's ruling and a separate possible issue that could emerge at a potential trial - whether Rosa was in her right mind when, as alleged, she shot her husband.

"This is a very serious offense," Ronca said. "It's rare for us to have a defendant in a homicide case who lacks the fitness to proceed."

In court, Rosa sat silently in her wheelchair, surrounded by her family, including the granddaughter she thought was being attacked.

Her daughter, Rosetta Rosa, 51, a former aide in a senior citizens' home, now lives with her mother. She said that as she and her siblings were growing up in their secluded home in Browns Mills, the beatings and verbal abuse from her father were constant.

"24-7," she said.

She said her father beat her mother, a homemaker, when she was pregnant, and once knocked out her teeth.

"My mother is a good woman," Rosa said. "But she is mentally, physically, and spiritually sick. My mother is not violent. She's not a murderer. If she was, she would have done this years ago."

In late June or early July, she said, her mother had called police to the house, saying she was being threatened. The police removed two rifles and two handguns.

Her father, who had retired from the Postal Service and the Air Force, successfully petitioned to get the guns back, explaining that his wife had dementia and her complaints against him were unwarranted, the daughter said.

"He just didn't know that God was trying to save his life," Rosa said.

"We never wanted this to happen," she said. "We didn't want him dead. We wanted him to change."

Contact Jane Von Bergen at jvonbergen@phillynews.com, @JaneVonBergen on Twitter, or at 215-854-2769. Read her workplace blog at www.philly.com/jobbing.

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