Report: Foss shooting suspect may have mental problems

January 5, 2007 

The teenager charged with shooting a fellow student to death at Tacoma’s Foss High School may have schizophrenia and take anti-pyschotic medications, according to a report prepared by a mental health expert at the Pierce County Jail.

Douglas S. Chanthabouly, 18, also was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Kirkland two years ago after attempting suicide, Penny Hobson of the jail’s mental health staff wrote in a report filed in Superior Court on Thursday.

Hobson interviewed Chanthabouly Wednesday afternoon after he was booked into jail on suspicion of shooting Samnang Kok to death in a school hallway, said Ed Troyer, spokesman for the jail and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. Kok, a 17-year-old junior, died at the scene.

Everyone held in the jail undergoes routine screening when first booked, Troyer said. Some – those with emotional or mental problems and inmates involved in high-profile cases – are subjected to a higher level of evaluation, Troyer said. The second screening helps the jail determine if an inmate needs special help, segregation from the main jail population or to be put on suicide watch.

Chanthabouly was on suicide watch during his first night in jail but since has been taken off, Troyer said Friday.

In her evaluation, Hobson noted that Chanthabouly was confused at times, somewhat depressed and having hallucinations.

Chanthabouly “appears to have difficulty with concentration” and said he has trouble remembering things since he began suffering psychotic symptoms about two years ago, Hobson wrote.

“(He) reports ongoing psychotic symptoms that are reduced but not extinguished with medication,” she said. “Based on his history, there may (be) competency concerns – this would obviously be impacted by his attorney’s ability to communicate with him.”

But his judgment, she said, was within normal limits and “currently appears adequate.” He also had a good understanding of his current circumstances, Hobson said.

Chanthabouly, also a junior at Foss, is charged with first-degree murder in Kok’s death and is being held in jail in lieu of $1 million bond. He has pleaded not guilty.

Witnesses said they saw Chanthabouly shoot Kok three times before first bell in a hallway at the north end of the school, according to court documents, and prosecutors said he has admitted killing Kok.

Police spokesman Mark Fulghum said Friday detectives have not been able to determine a motive.

John Chin is one of the public defenders appointed to represent Chanthabouly.

Chin said Friday he’s reviewed the mental health evaluation prepared by Hobson and that he and co-counsel John McNeish would investigate information in the report as well as other avenues of defense.

“At this point, we’re exploring all issues,” said Chin, who declined to go into specifics.

McNeish said it is too early in the case to draw conclusions.

“As in most murder cases, it will take a while to determine what really happened,” he said. “I’m sure it will be the case in this one as well.”

Deputy prosecutor Ed Murphy said he, too, had seen the evaluation and that it may lead to “some issues being brought up down the road.”

“It definitely gives the defense a starting point,” Murphy said.

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