The courtroom was lit, the sheriff's deputies and the TV cameras were on hand. The defendant, on the other hand, was not coming.
A few minutes before 8 a.m. Monday, just two hours before the arraignment was to be held in the first-degree murder case of 18-year-old Jose "Eddie" Tovar of Storm Lake, the court handed down an order suspending all court appearances for Tovar.
All parties involved in the legal action had found probable cause to sustain the allegations made earlier by Tovar's attorney that the suspect's mental condition renders him incapable of defending himself.
Tovar has yet to state his guilty or not guilty plea, as the arraignment has twice been delayed.
It was cancelled earlier for a late-season snowstorm that prevented the assigned judge from getting to the courthouse on the scheduled morning.
A psychiatric evaluation of Tovar was ordered, to be paid for by the office of the Sioux City Public Defender who represents him. Tovar's right to a speedy trial was set aside, pending that evaluation.
His attorney contends that he recognizes a mental disorder in speaking with Tovar about the incidents on the night of the killing, and that he is incapable of appreciating the charges against him or understanding the proceedings.
Police allege that Tovar stabbed his brother to death with a kitchen and inflicted multiple stab wounds to both of his parents in the 207 Seneca Street home the family was renting, and that after he was discovered in a neighborhood house covered in blood, he admitted to trying to "execute" the family members.
He remains in Buena Vista County jail, two levels below the courtroom where he was scheduled to appear, on $1 million bond.
A no-contact order has also been sought to prevent any contact between Tovar and his parents, or his brother Jorge, who was in the county jail on unrelated charges at the time of Jose Tovar's arrest.
Tovar has not attended school since the ninth grade, and was unemployed at the time of his arrest. He is a native of Mexico and was legally residing in the U.S. The family had occupied the home since November, and despite minor brushes with the law, Jose Tovar had no previous serious arrests on his record in Storm Lake.