LOWELL -- A 53-year-old city man is being held without bail and must undergo a psychiatric evaluation after prosecutors allege he killed his female neighbor on Saturday by repeatedly stabbing her in the neck.

James M. Sheedy, of 255 Walker St., third floor, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder for the slaying of 54-year-old Barbara Romano. A probable cause hearing is scheduled for July 8.

The victim's brother, who did not wish to be named, and her distraught sister, Patricia Vadnais, were in court on Monday to witness Sheedy's arraignment.

While Romano has a lengthy criminal record mostly for drugs and prostitution, Vadnais said of Sheedy, "Who gave him the right to play God and take my sister's life?''

Vadnais and her brother told The Sun they didn't know the motive for the murder, but they said Sheedy and Romano lived in the same apartment building.

Lowell police responded to the Walker Street apartment building at 9:30 p.m. Saturday for a well-being check. Sheedy's daughter told police her father was "off his meds'' and possibly suicidal, according to published reports.

When officers arrived they found Romano dead and Sheedy gone.

Police found Sheedy on the Lord Overpass. Sheedy allegedly admitted to police that he stabbed Romano at least once in the neck, Kontz said. During Sheedy's arraignment Monday, prosecutor Suzanne Kontz said an autopsy determined Romano died of multiple stab wounds.

During the arraignment, defense attorney Lorenzo Perez asked that Sheedy be sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for a competency evaluation due to Sheedy's mental-health issues, which he did not elaborate on in open court. Judge Thomas Brennan granted that motion and Perez's motions for funds to hire an investigator and to preserve evidence.

In the past seven months, Sheedy has wracked up several court cases.

As recently as April 14, Sheedy, who lists his occupation as a cook, pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and battery on a police officer, threats to commit a crime and criminal harassment in connection with an April 11 incident. That case is still pending.

Lowell police allege that at 10:30 p.m., officers responded to 15 Veterans Way for a report of harassment via telephone. Police spoke to the resident manager who said Sheedy was removed from the residence, but afterward he began calling and harassing the manager and other residents, according to court documents.

Sheedy called the manager more than seven times and left messages saying he has a long knife and threatened to attack the manager, according to court documents.

While police were present, Sheedy allegedly called the manager and threatened the officer, telling him "I will come and stab you with my knife if I see you.''

While police were still at the scene they learned that Sheedy had returned to the building with a knife and attempted to attack the manager by knocking on his door, documents state. Other residents restrained Sheedy until the police arrived.

When officers tried to arrest Sheedy, he allegedly began kicking at officers and used a racial slur several times. Sheedy was eventually arrested. Sheedy suffered some lacerations and bruises as a result of his struggle with other residents. Sheedy was transported to Lowell General Hospital to be treated for her injuries. Police seized the knife as evidence.

At the hospital, police noted that Sheedy was extremely combative and fighting with security staff and the officer who escorted him to the hospital. Sheedy allegedly reported that he was high on crack and he was highly intoxicated, according to court documents. Sheedy also allegedly tried to kick the security staff and threatened to kill the police officer. At one point, Sheedy, who was bleeding, began to spit bodily fluids at anyone who attempted to help him, documents state.

At his arraignment in that case, Sheedy was held without bail and ordered to undergo a competency evaluation. The next day, Lowell District Court Judge Daniel Crane ruled there was "no issue'' of competency regarding Sheedy. Crane released Sheedy on personal recognizance with conditions of no drugs or alcohol, random screens, take only prescribed medications, and stay away from 15 Veterans Way.

Five months earlier, on Nov. 2, 2013, Sheedy was arrested by Lowell police and charged with possession of a class B drug after he was stopped while riding a bicycle in the area of Linden and Elm streets. Sheedy triggered attention because he was intently watching the officer's unmarked cruiser as it drove by. As a result of his behavior, police kept an eye on the man on the bicycle.

After having a brief conversation on his cell phone, the man on the bicycle pedaled away and met a gray Camry. The man on the bicycle could be seen in his right pocket. When officers stopped Sheedy on his bicycle, he admitted he bought some cocaine, which he had in his pocket. The results of that case are unknown.

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