Charu Lata Khanna. Photo via Riverside County Sheriff's Department
Charu Lata Khanna. Photo via Riverside County Sheriff’s Department

A woman accused of leaving her pet dog “Harlem” inside a blistering vehicle in 100-degree weather for more than a day, killing the unfortunate pug, was Friday found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge James Hawkins reviewed a report prepared by a court-appointed psychiatrist and directed that Charu Lata Khanna be referred to a county mental health facility for further evaluation. She will return to court next month for a status hearing.

Khanna, 32, of Irvine was charged with felony animal cruelty for the 2014 death of her 12-year-old dog, Harlem in the Coachella Valley near Palm Springs. As jury selection was beginning in her trial nearly a year ago at the Larson Justice Center, her attorney filed a motion suggesting she might be mentally incompetent to face the charges.

Criminal proceedings were suspended last Jan. 6, so that the court- appointed psychiatrist could examine Khanna and assess her competence for trial, and she was released on her own recognizance.

She subsequently skipped scheduled court appearances in February, June and most recently, on Sept. 29, prompting the judge to issue a bench warrant for her arrest. She was taken into custody sometime this month.

The canine was found on May 5, 2014 — a day that hit a high of 100 degrees — inside a parked and locked vehicle at Vista Del Norte and Dillon Road and notified sheriff’s deputies, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Robert Bishop.

Investigators concluded after interviewing people who worked in the area that the vehicle was parked in the same spot for more than a day with the windows closed, Bishop said.

Khanna was arrested the following day and charges were filed against her about two months later.

— City News Service

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