[Hpn] seattletimes.com: Suspect was turned away day of Capitol Hill killing

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Suspect was turned away day of Capitol Hill killing
Full story: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004159901_williams02m.html

By Jonathan Martin
Seattle Times staff reporter

The day James Anthony Williams allegedly stabbed to death a stranger on Capitol Hill, the homeless, mentally ill ex-convict showed up at his probation officer's office agitated, defensive and, the officer wrote, "barely able to hold himself together."

Despite intense concerns about Williams' paranoid schizophrenia and violent behavior, the probation officer gave Williams a pair of Metro bus tickets and told him to come back in three days.

Hours later, Shannon Harps, a 31-year-old Sierra Club volunteer, was stabbed to death. Williams has been charged in her death.

Department of Corrections (DOC) records released Friday show that Williams, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, spiraled into a pit of anger and delusion late last year. He skipped required mental-health appointments and was evicted for threatening his landlord.

Although he told staff at Western State Hospital last summer that voices told him to kill people, King County mental-health evaluators decided he was not an imminent danger to himself or others, and he was released.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has called for a review of how the state supervised a man with serious mental illness and a history of attacking strangers.

DOC Secretary Eldon Vail said his review of the case thus far did not find serious errors. But he thinks Satterberg's review should include an assessment of mental-health commitment laws, because Williams was evaluated twice in the past year but found to not be an imminent threat to himself or others.

"I think we should take a look at the law," Vail said. "Maybe the threshold criteria is not where it should be for someone with this kind of history of stranger violence."

The DOC records -- and others from Williams' numerous recent criminal charges -- portray the state's efforts to monitor Williams as both intensive and ineffective.

Case reviewed weekly

Williams had a 30-year history of criminal behavior and resisting mental-health treatment and was on supervision throughout last year for a 1995 assault conviction in which he shot a stranger.

DOC designated him as one of 70 Dangerous Mentally Ill Offenders in King County, a high-risk tag requiring heightened scrutiny and help from probation officers, mental-health providers and social-services agencies.

The DOC records of Williams' case were reviewed each week for the past year by a team of law-enforcement, mental-health and social-services professionals.

An opportunity to intervene with Williams emerged last summer, after he was charged in Seattle Municipal Court with threatening to "shoot all the caseworkers" at Sound Mental Health and to "lay in wait" to shoot his DOC officer. He spent three months at Western State Hospital for an assessment of whether he was competent to stand trial for misdemeanor harassment charges.

His menacing behavior continued while at Western State. A social worker complained to DOC about Williams' "intimidating and menacing behavior" toward staff, and about Williams' claims of having "two personalities and one of them can lead to killing people and maybe he should go to jail," according to the DOC records released Friday.

Western staff found him not competent to stand trial, resulting in those charges being dismissed.

The hospital social worker asked DOC if officers could arrest Williams for the "killing people" threat, but Williams' DOC officer said the threat was too vague, according to the records.

King County mental-health evaluators -- despite the hospital's concerns -- then ruled that Williams did not meet the criteria for civil commitment and further hospitalization. They released him in early September, and he returned to Seattle.

A spokesman for Western State said Friday the hospital could not discuss Williams' case because of confidentiality laws.

Resisted treatment

Williams continued to resist mental-health treatment after leaving Western State. In late September, his caseworker at Sound Mental Health complained to DOC that Williams was threatening and making "sexualized" comments toward female staff.

Williams was evaluated by King County for possible civil commitment again in December, just a few weeks before Harps' death. Again, evaluators ruled he did not meet the standard for commitment, which is being an imminent danger to himself or others.

He missed a series of required appointments, leading to a 60-day stint in jail for probation violations.

He was released from King County Jail on Christmas Eve, and stayed in a series of homeless shelters until Jan. 16, when he was arrested for throwing away his psychiatric medications.

When confronted by a DOC officer about the medications in the trash, Williams said, "Vengeance will be mine."

He was booked in jail and was still there when Seattle police arrested him for Harps' murder after linking him to the crime through DNA evidence.

He is being held on $1 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.

"Callous" attitude

The DOC records released Friday show that Williams also compiled a disturbing history even while in prison, serving an 11-year prison sentence for the 1995 shooting conviction.

He had more than 200 serious infractions in the 11 years, most being served in the state's specialized unit for mentally ill inmates at Monroe.

At times, he was forced to take psychiatric medications because of the perceived danger to staff and other inmates.

Williams had "threatened to get revenge on police and custodial staff members by torturing and killing them and their family members," according to Williams' DOC release plan. His attitude about his victims in years past was "rather callous."

His plan concluded with an ominous warning: "Everyone is at risk when he is not adequately medicated."

Seattle Times reporter Yu Nakayama contributed to this report.

Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or jmartin@seattletimes.com


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