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PHUKET: Legal proceedings against confessed killer Ronald Fanelli are on hold until the American returns to Phuket, the Gazette has learned.

Mr Fanelli is currently undergoing psychiatric examination at a facility in Surat Thani.

The former US Navy officer was taken to Suan Saranrom Hospital for examination on September 13, reportedly at his own request.

The case against him has been deferred until an evaluation report is issued and he is returned to Phuket Provincial Prison, a source at the jail told the Gazette.

More than two months after leaving Phuket he remains in Surat Thani.

Mr Fanelli has been charged with the murder of bar hostess Wanphen Pienjai, a 37-year-old mother of two who disappeared from the Sweethearts Bar in Kata on June 18.

The subject of a month-long police manhunt, Fanelli was arrested in a rented home in Karon on July 17.

During his confession at a press conference at Phuket City Police Station on July 18, Mr Fanelli described the killing as a “terrible, terrible mistake”.

The Gazette left a long list of questions with Mr Fanelli during a 10-minute meeting with him at Phuket Provincial Prison in early September.

However, he later returned the list with the questions unanswered and a brief note saying he needed to consult his lawyer first.

Meanwhile, a group of online poker players based outside of Thailand has raised about 30,000 baht for the surviving family of Ms Wanphen.

Before moving to Thailand, Mr Fanelli was a professional poker player on the London circuit, where he used to play under the name “MadYank”.

[Like most forms of gaming, playing on-line poker is illegal in Thailand, although authorities admit they lack the resources to effectively enforce the law.]

News of his arrest drew a great deal of attention from the on-line poker community who hope to increase that amount to 100,000 through a charity fundraiser.

Bill Rini, who visited the family in September with the first installment of the money raised, wrote on his personal blogsite:

“Sa-ard [Wanphen’s mother] brought down a letter sent to her by the Rotary Club of Patong Beach granting Wanphen’s children, Farm and Iang, scholarships amounting to 6,000 baht (about US$193) a year each while they stayed in school.”

“If either of the children wanted to attend university they indicated that they would review that with her when the time came.”

“Amusingly, everyone there translated ‘Rotary’ to ‘Lotary’ and thought it had to do with the lottery. I had to explain what the Rotary Club was and everyone seemed to do that embarrassed chuckle when they realized how far off they had been.”

Mr Rini’s website ThailandFriends.com is organizing a charity fund-raising event in Bangkok in January in order to raise more money for the family.

The Phuket Gazette initiated the fund-raising effort with the Rotary Club of Patong Beach following reader calls for assistance to the family of Khun Wanphen.

— Atchaa Khamlo & Stephen Fein