Accused Thurston County killer had moved in with victim on day of slaying

Staff writerMay 2, 2013 

Lia Yera Tricomo, 27, appeared in Thurston County Superior Court Wednesday by video. Tricomo is accused of first-degree murder.

Former Behavioral Health Resources counselor John Alkins, 58, was fired in December after he “violated BHR policies concerning professional boundaries,” according to a spokeswoman there.

Five months later, a 27-year-old Olympia woman who says she was a former patient of Alkins’ at BHR is accused of slitting Alkins’ throat with a folding razor knife after they had sexual relations at his Sunset Beach Drive home Monday night. She told police she later strangled him with an extension cord, court papers state.

Lia Tricomo told deputies she had moved into Alkins home on Monday, the same day that Tricomo is accused of fatally stabbing and strangling him.

Tricomo was being held at the Thurston County Jail Thursday on suspicion of first-degree murder in connection with Alkins’ homicide. Her bail is set at $1 million.

When detectives asked Tricomo why she slit Alkins’ throat, “she stated that he was a creep,” court papers state.

Tricomo, who has a history of mental health issues, told detectives that after she slit Alkins’ throat six times while the two were in bed Monday, he refused to call 911 because “he did not want to get in trouble for having a former client at his residence,” court papers state.

Also according to court papers:

Tricomo told detectives that she had a social relationship with Alkins that began while he was providing her with mental health services at BHR. Tricomo added that Alkins was no longer employed at BHR because “he was terminated several months ago due to an inappropriate relationship with another patient.” On Thursday morning, a BHR spokeswoman confirmed that Alkins left BHR in September, but she would not say why. BHR is a mental health services clinic on Martin Way in Olympia.

A Department of Health spokesman told The Olympian later on Thursday that if Alkins left BHR due to a finding of “unprofessional conduct,” BHR would have been required to notify DOH. DOH spokesman Donn Moyer added there is no record that BHR notified DOH of any such finding when Alkins’ employment was terminated.

BHR spokeswoman Judi Hoefling subsequently confirmed that Alkins was terminated from BHR in December after a BHR investigation determined that Alkins violated BHR policies regarding “professional boundaries.” Hoefling also acknowledged that BHR did not promptly report to DOH that Alkins was terminated for unprofessional conduct, as required under Washington Administrative Code.

“A case report was not filed with the Department of Health at the time of the former employee’s termination,” Hoefling wrote in an e-mail.

Hoefling said BHR did “consult” with DOH while it was investigating Alkins’ case in September, after he was placed on administrative leave.

Hoefling indicated that a report was subsequently filed with DOH indicating why Alkins was terminated. When asked when that happened, she said that report was filed “today,” meaning Thursday.

DOH’s Moyer said Thursday that when Alkins left BHR, he was required under state law to notify the state Department of Health’s “Health Systems Quality Assurance Division” of his change in employment, but there is no record with DOH that he did so.

Moyer added that when an agency-affiliated counselor does not meet this notification requirement, it could result in a complaint, investigation, or possible corrective action. Alkins’ counselor’s license was in good standing and active with DOH at the time of his death, and there were no complaints of any kind against him, Moyer said.

It was unclear Thursday which agency has jurisdiction over BHR’s apparent failure to follow Washington Administrative Code.

A professional organization for counselors makes it clear that sexual or romantic contact between a counselor and a patient is unethical.

According to the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics published on its website, sexual or romantic relationships between counselors and clients are prohibited. Sexual or romantic relationships between counselors and former clients are prohibited for a period of five years following the last professional contact.

Court papers released on Thursday also revealed more details about Alkins and Tricomo’s alleged relationship, and what happened before and after Alkin’s homicide Monday night, including:

-- After Alkins’ throat had been slit, Tricomo told deputies he walked around his home in the 3800 block of Sunset Beach Drive for hours, “trying to stop the bleeding” himself. Tricomo said she followed Alkins around the house “to make sure he didn’t leave.” She also told detectives she and Alkins eventually had a struggle near the front door of the residence before she strangled him.

-- Tricomo said she slept at Alkins’ home Monday night and after she awoke Tuesday, she “checked on Alkins,” then fixed herself something to eat. She then used his computer to try to access his bank accounts to get money so she could flee. She was unable to get any money, but eventually left in Alkins’ vehicle. She later asked for help at a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and a member of the AA group took her to Providence St. Peter Hospital Tuesday night.

-- She was arrested Tuesday night after she turned herself in at the hospital’s mental health ward. After serving a search warrant on Tricomo’s personal property, detectives found a “blood-stained folding razor knife” in her backpack.

Tricomo has a history of violence. She was convicted of third-degree assault in 2009, and is on diversion for a fourth-degree assault charge.

According to court records, in February 2011, Tricomo called police saying “she wanted to kill her family” and took 12 sleeping pills. Tricomo’s sister tried to stop her from taking the pills, resulting in Tricomo hitting her “over the head with a glass bottle in order to get more pills.”

Tricomo has also been admitted to Western State Hospital where she was deemed “competent” and having “no diminished capacity,” Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Lord has said.

Alkins’ autopsy on Thursday confirmed that he died of strangulation, according to the Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock. Warnock stated in a news release that “the multiple sharp force injuries” to Alkins’ neck were not immediately fatal. Alkins was discovered in his bed with an extension cord wrapped around his neck.

Thurston County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Brady said Thursday that Tricomo’s story about what happened with Alkins “appears to be consistent with a lot of the scene.” However, it is unclear whether she is being completely forthright in all of the details, Brady said. “We’re still looking into that,” he said.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445

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