Mental illness seen in suspect

January 6, 2007 

The teenager charged with shooting a fellow student to death at Tacoma’s Foss High School might have schizophrenia and take anti-pyschotic medications, according to a report 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 Thursday in Superior Court.

Hobson interviewed Chanthabouly on Wednesday after he was booked into jail on suspicion of shooting Samnang Kok to death in a school hallway, sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said. 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 whether a prisoner needs special help or to be segregated from the main jail population because he is a danger to himself or others.

Chanthabouly was put into a so-called “crisis cell” his first night in jail so he could be closely monitored and remained there Friday, Troyer said.

In her evaluation, Hobson notes 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 and “does not appear to be imminently at risk,” Hobson said.

Chanthabouly, also a junior at Foss, is charged with first-degree murder in Kok’s death and was 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. Prosecutors said he has admitted killing Kok.

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

John Chin, one of the public defenders representing Chanthabouly, said he’s reviewed the mental health evaluation 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 was too early in the case to draw conclusions.

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

Deputy prosecutor Ed Murphy said he also had reviewed the evaluation and that it might lead to “some issues being brought up down the road.”

Those could include a hearing to determine whether Chan-thabouly is competent to stand trial, Murphy said.

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

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644

Staff writer Stacey Mulick contributed to this report.

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