Kim Meline never got the chance to testify in favor of a new law that was precipitated by the murder of her husband at the hands of her son.
Twice this year, she planned to drive to Olympia to speak in front of state House and Senate committees discussing mental health legislation.
Both times, there were mental competency hearings scheduled for her son on the same day. Both times, she went to court only to see the hearings postponed.
Last week, she was in court again to find out if 29-year-old Jonathan Meline would be declared competent to stand trial for the murder of his father, Rob – a murder he has confessed committing. Once again, the hearing was postponed.
Kim Meline has seen Jonathan only once since her husband, a 56-year-old school teacher, was killed in his bed in their Tacoma home last October.
“He came into court and it took my breath away,” she said. “I love the boy, but the person who did this wasn’t my son. I may never be able to resolve that.”
In the 71/2 months since the murder, sixth-grade teacher Kim Meline and her four grown daughters have seen state legislators pass a law making it less likely that someone like Jonathan would be free to commit an awful crime like this again.
The mother and sisters have dealt in different ways with the horror of that night and its aftermath.
The youngest, 22-year-old Katie, just graduated summa cum laude from Washington State University. She’s now working on a state Department of Fish and Wildlife project in Twisp, relocating beavers.
Sara, 24, is living at home with her mother and will attend The Evergreen State College this fall. Intrigued by organic farming, she will spend much of this summer at a farm in California.
Shannon, 26, is married and living in Tacoma with her husband. Before her dad’s murder, the couple had planned a November trip to Hawaii; they canceled and took it in January.
“She gave me the idea of taking the other girls to Hawaii this summer,” Kim Meline said. “Three days after school ends for me, we’re heading over for 10 days.”
Kristina, the oldest daughter at 33, is facing unique challenges. She was the only member of the family at home with her father and her brother the night of the murder. Kim and her mother had flown to Spain to begin a trip through Europe.
Kristina was in the bedroom below her father’s when she heard the two men making noise above.
By the time she dressed and came upstairs, Jonathan was covered in blood and holding a hatchet. In the late-night hours, Kristina walked with her brother more than a mile to a police station, where Jonathan turned himself in.
Kristina has found a new love, her mother said, but she suffers from nightmares about the night her father died.
“In her dreams, it’s always just before Rob is attacked, and she’s trying to warn him,” Kim said.
Meanwhile, Kim Meline has tried to deal with her own pain.
“I’ve had a lot of guilt. If I hadn’t gone on the trip, maybe this wouldn’t have happened,” she said. “I know if I’d been in the house and Jon had started to attack Rob, I’d have known it and fought him. And if he’d come at me first, Rob would have done the same thing.
“What bothers me most is thinking he was alone when he died. I hate that so much. Until I know Jon will never be released, I’ll never feel safe. I’ll worry about the girls, about my mother.”
Jonathan Meline, who suffered more than a decade with schizophrenia, was released from Western State Hospital in January 2012. He was free because he’d been found incompetent to stand trial for attempted murder, an incident in which he’d tried to run down a car salesman while stealing a Jeep.
His parents took him into their home. In June 2012, he warned his father he was going to kill him. The next day, he bought the hatchet he would use four months later.
Gov. Jay Inslee last month signed into law a bill linked to Jonathan Meline. Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said Friday it “makes it far less likely we’ll see another situation like we saw with Meline.”
“Under the new law, if he’s found incompetent and hospitalized, and at some point it’s found he can be released, then we think he’s competent enough to stand trial and would charge him again,” Lindquist said.
All the competency hearings scheduled and postponed this year have made for some tough days for Kim Meline.
“I tend to go online, look at documents to see what’s happening, and I’ve learned some things I didn’t want to know,” she said. “From his interviews, Jonathan said Rob did wake up when he came into the room, and asked ‘Hey, Jon, what’s going on?’
“I’d hoped he’d never awakened.”Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638