A 33-year-old man who tried to snap the necks of two nurses at Lourdes Counseling Center was psychotic at the time of the Halloween crimes, a Benton County judge ruled Friday.
Jeril Willis Thompson was acquitted by reason of insanity because of the Pasco man's inability to know his behavior was wrong. He was legally insane Oct. 31 when he attacked the mental health workers in Richland, and remains "a substantial danger to the community," Judge Craig Matheson said in granting the defense motion filed by Kevin Holt.
Deputy Prosecutor Megan Whitmire agreed with the request, which included a finding that Thompson did commit two counts of third-degree assault. Five additional counts were dismissed as a part of the compromise.
The judgment -- rarely made in the Benton-Franklin Superior Court system -- means Thompson will be locked up in a state mental facility, instead of prison.
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He will be evaluated at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake, then undergo a commitment proceeding with the state Department of Social and Health Services.
Thompson's detention could last up to five years, the maximum possible sentence for the crime, though Holt told the Herald that the state must place his client in the "least-restrictive confinement." He will remain under the court's control the whole time, with state psychologists expected to send annual reports to the judge.
Thompson did not speak during the short hearing Friday. His criminal history includes four prior felony convictions -- two gross misdemeanors and nine misdemeanors -- for 19 arrests.
During his Sanity Commission evaluation last November, Thompson said he has a poor memory of the events that led to his arrest and does not know what happened to him to affect his thinking and behavior.
The evaluation was with Dr. William Grant, a state psychiatrist, and Nathan Henry, a state psychologist. Aside from the insanity finding, they determined he was competent to stand trial.
It all started Oct. 30 when Thompson heard a "weird" calling from God to change his life, which included helping out more in cleaning the house and being a better father. At the time he was living with his pregnant fiancee and their two kids, and caring for the home, according to a 13-page report from Grant and Henry.
Thompson insisted on going to a place of worship in the Tri-Cities, where he met with a group of men for well more than an hour while they explained their religion.
His fiancee was not allowed to join him in the room at the worship center, which was not identified in court documents. She told authorities that Thompson was talking strangely on the drive home about how their unborn child was going to be Jesus, he was going to be a king and she would be a queen.
Thompson continued to act different overnight, claiming that evil spirits were testing him to see if he would be good, so his fiancee left with the kids, the report said.
Police were called a number of times during the next day to talk with Thompson because he reportedly was scaring people each time he awoke from a deep sleep and was in a stupor. The next thing he says he remembers is coming to in a psychiatric facility late Oct. 31.
Medical staff said he'd been brought in for treatment after making odd statements that caused alarm, such as needing to kill his ex-wife and himself to become a god.
Court documents show that a female nurse had her back to Thompson while adjusting a thermostat when he "grabbed her neck, head and jaw, and twisted her head in a violent manner as if he was attempting to break her neck." She fell to the ground, but he continued to grab her by the hair and slam the side of her head onto the floor three to four times, documents said.
The woman told police she lost consciousness during the assault.
After hearing an initial scream from the first victim, another female nurse had joined her in the room and quickly tried to leave but not before Thompson grabbed her from behind around the neck and forced her to the ground, court documents said. She got up and again tried to get away, but Thompson put the woman in a headlock and dragged her by the neck before dropping her, documents said.
The two women and the rest of the center staff eventually were able to lock themselves inside a secured room at the nurses' station. They believed Thompson would come for them, but he ran down a hall and after several attempts was able to kick open a steel door.
Richland police responded to Lourdes Counseling at 12:35 a.m. Nov. 1 and found a barefoot man running out of the facility, waving his hands at an officer, court documents said.
Thompson first complied with police commands, but then resisted. Numerous shocks from a Taser failed, so officers then struggled with him on the ground before they were able to subdue him, documents said.
He was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland to be checked out for possible injuries, but reportedly was not tested for any drugs.
Thompson told Grant and Henry that he has no recollection of the next 30 days while in jail, and recorded phone calls with his fiancee show it "took him nearly a week to clear completely after being confused and psychotic," the report said.
What caused his psychosis is an unanswerable question, Grant and Henry summarized in their report.
"Although we cannot categorically exclude the possibility that his mental condition resulted from the voluntary ingestion of a psychoactive substance, there is absolutely no evidence to support this explanation," they said.
It is not known if Thompson was given "some psychoactive substance" at the place of worship without being told what it was, or if he "suffered a psychotic episode that appeared spontaneously without an outside chemical trigger."
Thompson's psychotic state lasted longer than is expected when induced by drugs, but some susceptible people can remain for an extended period after initially taking the substance, their report said.
His fiancee had told police that Thompson was "totally fine" before he went to the worship center.
With the acquittal, Matheson dismissed charges of attempted first-degree assault, second-degree assault, third-degree assault and two counts of attempted second-degree assault. Each count included aggravating circumstances of deliberate cruelty and obstruction of health care.
Whitmire, in moving for the dismissal, said the incident only involved two victims who were each attacked once, so the extra charges were filed as options.
The nurses weren't at Friday's hearing, so Matheson wanted to know if they were aware of the resolution.
Whitmire told the court "it's sort of a weird situation for them to wrap their heads around," but added that the victims don't object to it.
Holt asked to have Thompson released on his personal recognizance so he could immediately go to Eastern State Hospital. "This was purely a one-time incident with him," the lawyer said in court.
But Matheson said that would be "just absolutely absurd" to let Thompson out of the Benton County jail before he's transferred to the state facility, especially after the judge determined there is a risk of the defendant committing "felonious acts jeopardizing public safety or security."