He was accused of killing his roommate 7 years ago. Why he still hasn’t been tried

Lawrence David Butterfield is caught in a revolving door.

The mentally ill man has been charged with murder three times, and three times his schizophrenia and low IQ have kept him from going to trial for the death of his roommate seven years ago.

He was recently on the verge of being released from Western State Hospital, the Lakewood psychiatric facility where he’s been committed. But a murder charge, filed July 6 for the fourth time, will keep the 61-year-old there for now.

Pierce County prosecutors allege Butterfield killed 53-year-old James Bradshaw with a hunting knife Nov. 18, 2010, at the Puyallup apartment the men shared.

Officers found the body on the apartment balcony and later found Butterfield, who told them he’d been hearing voices telling him to kill, according to charging papers.

The cycle that’s kept Butterfield at Western State since then goes like this:

▪ He’s charged with first-degree murder in Bradshaw’s death.

▪ Mental health professionals evaluate him at Western State, and the judge decides Butterfield is not competent to stand trial.

▪ The murder charge is dismissed, and he’s civilly committed to Western State.

▪ As Butterfield’s mental health improves, state officials tell prosecutors when they plan to release him.

▪ Prosecutors refile the murder charge, and the cycle starts again.

At Butterfield’s most recent arraignment on Monday, Superior Court Commissioner Meagan Foley ordered him to again be evaluated at Western State, to see whether he’s competent to stand trial.

Butterfield’s previous mental health evaluations identify him as a high risk for dangerous behavior and re-offending, Deputy Prosecutor Kathleen Proctor wrote in the July 6 charging papers.

Such evaluations filed with the court, most recently in 2014, say Butterfield has been diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia and intellectual disabilities.

He was first sent to Western State in 1975, after he was charged with assaulting his father with a knife, and again the next year for allegedly assaulting his father with a gun.

The charges were dropped after he was found incompetent to stand trial.

He was committed to the hospital in 1980, after he was found not guilty by reason of insanity for assaulting his father with the intent to kill. He stayed there until 2002.

The next step for Butterfield is a competency hearing July 24.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell