Crime

He killed his roommate. He’s hallucinating. His release is on hold — for now

It’s not clear what the future holds for Lawrence David Butterfield, but it’s not release from Western State Hospital — yet.

The 62-year-old was accused of killing his roommate in 2010, and local leaders said the inpatient psychiatric facility planned to release him to a Lakewood home this month.

But the state has changed those plans after his housing situation fell through, according to the city.

“The most recent information that was conveyed to the city of Lakewood is that his placement fell through and he is currently at Western State,” city spokeswoman Brynn Grimley said Tuesday. “We don’t know what’s next at this point. We’re waiting for notification from Western State as to what’s going to happen with him next.”

Butterfield’s low IQ and schizophrenia have kept him from trial through the years, and he’s been in a sort of revolving door between Western State and Superior Court.

Last week, Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson said that cycle was set to end — with Butterfield’s release to an adult-family home blocks from Oakbrook Elementary School.

“Somebody like this is being housed in a residential neighborhood, in a home with some of the most vulnerable individuals in society,” Anderson said about the planned Sept. 6 release. “It’s unconscionable.”

The city later said the release date had changed to Monday (Sept. 11), and then that it wasn’t clear when, where or if he’d be released, but that he’s at Western State for the time being.

Meanwhile, Lakewood plans to look at ways to regulate where such adult-family homes go, how they’re run, and who lives there, Grimley said.

“... the fact of the matter is adult family homes are now being used to house people they are not set up to handle,” she said in a release.

Asked about Butterfield’s case, the state Department of Social and Health Services (which runs Western State), said state and federal privacy laws prevent the agency from discussing specific patients.

“DSHS and Western State Hospital have the responsibility to balance the need to treat patients while ensuring the safety of the staff and public,” spokeswoman Kelly Stowe said in a statement. “At the same time, a patient cannot be held longer than legally permitted.”

Prosecutors have charged Butterfield four times with murder for the death of 53-year-old James Bradshaw. And four times those charges were dismissed because Butterfield was found incompetent to stand trial — most recently in July. In between, he’s been civilly committed.

Officers found Bradshaw’s body Nov. 18, 2010 on the balcony of the Puyallup apartment he and Butterfield shared.

When they caught up with Butterfield, he told them voices in his head had told him to kill and that he’d stabbed his sleeping roommate, according to charging papers.

A psychiatric evaluation from the end of July noted Butterfield had ongoing hallucinations, such as hearing voices, but that they seemed to “have abated considerably.”

He still wasn’t competent to stand trial, though, and was a moderate to high risk for future dangerous behavior, the report found.

Among the local leaders opposing Butterfield’s planned release this month was Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

Both his office and Lakewood were planning to take civil action in court to prevent Butterfield’s release if that plan had gone forward.

Lindquist told The News Tribune last week that his office doesn’t plan to refile the murder charge, given Butterfield’s mental state, but that they reserve that option.

“Our goal is to see that Mr. Butterfield remains in (Western State Hospital) where he can receive treatment in a secure setting,” the prosecutor said via email. “We will use all legal options to protect the public.”

In a Sept. 1 letter asking Governor Jay Inslee to stop Butterfield’s release, Lindquist wrote:

“While my office has tried to prevent his release, the criminal-justice system was not designed to handle persons so mentally ill that they will never be competent to stand trial. Now it is up to the professionals in the civil-commitment arena to protect the public from a mentally ill person who poses a great risk to public safety.”

State senator Steve O’Ban wrote a similar letter Friday.

Governor’s spokeswoman Jaime Smith said Tuesday that privacy laws prevented her from discussing a particular patient, but that the patient referenced was still at Western State and that she didn’t have an update as to if or when that person would be moved to a community facility.

Butterfield’s first stint at Western State was in 1975 after he’d been charged with assaulting his father with a knife. He was back the next year after being charged with assaulting his father with a gun.

Both cases were dropped when he was found incompetent to stand trial.

Then he had an extended stay at Western State after he was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1979 for assaulting his father with the intent to kill. He was released in 2002 and did not return to the hospital until the murder charge in 2010, records show.

Apparently, he believed his most recent commitment to the hospital was permanent.

During his July psychiatric evaluation, he said hospital staff had told him he’d be “at the hospital for life,” according to the report detailing that evaluation.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell

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