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Man found incompetent in Portsmouth simulated explosive case

BRENTWOOD - A Portsmouth man charged with planting a simulated explosive inside a rooming house where he lived has been deemed incompetent to stand trial.

Nicholas Durling is being held at the Rockingham County jail following his indictment last month on a felony count of placement of simulated explosives. Lawyers are expected to briefly meet with a judge about the case today. Prosecutors must decide whether they will intervene in a pending probate case for Durling, 31, that resulted in a four-year commitment at New Hampshire Hospital.

Neighbors of a Brewster Street rooming house were evacuated Aug. 5 around 1:30 a.m. when Portsmouth police found what they described as two primitive electronic devices plugged into a wall that smoked and gave off heat. Durling was admitted to the state hospital for an assessment the day after his arrest.

He received a four-year civil commitment from a probate judge on Aug. 28, Judge N. William Delker said in a court order.

"His mental health was stabilized and he was transferred back to the jail to resolve the pending criminal charges," Delker said in the order. A Rockingham County grand jury indicted Durling in February.

"The competency evaluation concludes that (Durling) is incompetent to stand trial and there is no likelihood that he can be restored to competency within 12 months," Delker said in the order. "The evaluation also concludes that (he) poses a serious danger to himself or others."

Although the competency hearing has already been decided in probate court, Delker said he is giving Rockingham County prosecutors an opportunity to have input in the civil commitment. County prosecutors could seek an involuntary commitment for Durling, or intervene in the pending civil commitment underway in probate court. Judge Kenneth McHugh, who is now presiding over the case, is expected to learn of the county's decision on Friday.