A Prosser man admitted Wednesday that his beating of a friend in 2010 while the two were heavily drinking led to the other man's death days later.
Clifford F. Flett, 52, pleaded guilty in Benton County Superior Court to a reduced charge of second-degree manslaughter.
Two separate evaluations reportedly found that Flett has mental issues, including being delusional, but the court determined he has the capacity to understand the case against him and could proceed to trial.
"I was extremely intoxicated on Oct. 28, 2010, and cannot recall my contact with Jeffrey Alexander. However, based upon the state's evidence, I believe a jury could find that I engaged in criminally negligent actions which resulted in Mr. Alexander's death," Flett wrote in his plea statement. "I therefore wish to plead guilty to the amended charge to take advantage of the prosecutor's sentence recommendation."
Sentencing is set for Jan. 11.
The standard sentencing range for the crime is five years and seven months to seven years and five months in prison.
However, Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller said he will recommend an exceptional sentence below the range at four years. Flett will receive credit for the time he has served in the Benton County jail since his arrest.
"I think that he needs to get to prison where he's going to hopefully get better mental treatment than he can in the jail," Miller told the Herald.
According to court documents, Flett and Alexander spent an evening drinking and sitting around a fire pit at 60702 Chaffee Road when at some point the friends got into a fight.
Shannon Meiers, a friend, told investigators he went to bed first and woke up the next morning to find Alexander, 64, outside and moaning. Meiers moved Alexander into a bus on the property, which is where he was staying, documents said.
A couple of people later checked to see how Alexander was doing after the beating, and called 911 when they couldn't wake him up, court documents said. Sheriff's deputies arrived around 11:40 a.m. and tried to talk with Alexander, but he was not responsive.
Alexander was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, where he died Nov. 5.
An autopsy showed he died from a blow to the skull that caused a blood clot, and he also had infections in his lungs and excess fluid in his abdominal cavity, documents said. A forensic pathologist determined that Alexander died from homicidal violence.
Flett had a warrant out for his arrest at the time of the assault against Alexander. He had failed to appear at an Oct. 21, 2010, court hearing for a pending felony charge of failing to register as a sex offender.
Flett was arrested Nov. 1, 2010, on the failure to register warrant, but he wasn't charged with Alexander's death until Dec. 8, 2010, while he already was sitting in jail.
He initially was charged with first-degree manslaughter "based on the theory that while (Flett) did not intend to kill Jeffrey Alexander, his physical assault recklessly caused his death," Miller wrote in a court document explaining why the charge was reduced for the plea.
Earlier this year, Flett was ordered to undergo an evaluation at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake because of concerns about his mental health. State psychologists found he was competent, but delusional, Miller said.
Flett then was evaluated by a defense expert, Spokane psychologist Roy Mark Mays Jr., who found that Flett is not competent, Miller said.
"While the state believes that based on those evaluations, (Flett) is competent to stand trial, the state believes that there may be reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant had the requisite mental state of recklessness and that the mental state of criminal negligence would be more appropriate," Miller said in the court document.
"This is also consistent with evidence that (Flett) was intoxicated from alcohol at the time of the assault," he added. And while voluntary intoxication can be a defense in first-degree manslaughter, it cannot be used in second-degree.
As a part of the plea agreement, Miller said he would dismiss all other current charges pending against Flett with prejudice, meaning they cannot be re-filed.
That includes the failure to register and a charge of custodial assault.
While sitting behind bars on the manslaughter charge, Flett allegedly hit a corrections officer April 18.
Court documents state that he became verbal with Corrections Officer Robert Mancillas and pushed him, striking the officer in the arm and hitting his eyeglasses.
Flett continued to go after Mancillas and refused to comply with orders, so he had to be escorted out of his cell, documents said.
The assault reportedly was witnessed by at least one other officer.
Flett will return to court today on the dismissal for those two cases.