A Prosser man has been committed to a state mental health facility, five years after he handcuffed and kidnapped two brothers at gunpoint while claiming to be an officer.
Rodolfo Hurtado, now 30, had been on conditional release since entering an insanity plea.
But after nearly two years of erratic behavior — including Hurtado’s use of cocaine, marijuana and alcohol, and failure to consistently take his medications — a Benton County judge decided to revoke his release.
Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom, who took over the case last October with the retirement of Judge Robert Swisher, told Hurtado that a lot of people worked really hard to help him stay in the community, but he wasn’t doing what was required of him.
Ekstrom’s order said Hurtado violated the terms of his release and “presents a threat to public safety.”
Hurtado could be in Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake for the rest of his life, though he will have the ability to petition for his release.
Both Hurtado and his defense attorney, Dennis Hanson, argued against the order and tried to keep him free.
An insanity plea often triggers an immediate commitment to a state psychiatric facility, where the person can be held up to the maximum sentence for their crime.
In Hurtado’s case, Swisher ruled in 2013 that he could live at home with his parents while reporting regularly to a community corrections officer and participating in treatment.
Swisher based his decision on statements from medical experts that Hurtado was not a risk to the community and that he suffered from hypothyroidism, which can cause “bizarre psychotic-like behavior” like hallucinations and paranoid thoughts.
The experts also said at the time that Hurtado had a history of drug use and the possibility of schizophrenia.
Hurtado was at a funeral for a friend’s mother in April 2012 when he thought one of the victims was pointing a video camera at him. He said he believed the government or the “Mexican Mafia” were planning to kill him.
The two brothers were attending their sister’s funeral. But when the men went to their van in the cemetery, Hurtado thought they were getting a gun to shoot him. He pulled out a loaded .38-caliber revolver and claimed to be a law enforcement officer.
A friend who was in law enforcement in the Yakima Valley came to the aid of Hurtado, who said the men had arrest warrants. The friend pulled out two sets of handcuffs and placed the men in the back of his truck to take them to the Prosser Police Department.
On the drive to the station, the friend became suspicious whether it was a legitimate arrest and flagged down a Prosser sergeant on his way to the cemetery. Hurtado was taken into custody.
Hurtado was charged with two counts each of first-degree kidnapping and second-degree assault. Each charge included the allegation that a handgun was used.
Swisher accepted Hurtado’s plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. However, the defendant was required to admit to the allegations that landed him in court.
Hurtado might have intended to take the men into custody for questioning, but he was unable to tell right from wrong because he was insane at the time, Swisher said.
Hurtado had no prior felony convictions.
He faced a life sentence if he had been convicted the kidnappings and assaults. That’s why he could be under the care of the state Department of Social and Health Services for the rest of his life.
Hurtado has had several stints at Eastern State Hospital over the years. He was arrested March 6 after he briefly checked in to a local mental health facility without telling anyone where he was going and then failed to check in with his probation officer. That was followed by another trip to the Medical Lake hospital.
Ekstrom’s final revocation decision was based on a recommendation from the hospital’s risk review board.
The board, in evaluating people, wants them at level six before considering release from the facility. Hurtado was at a level two, though he claimed he was given the low score intentionally to keep him there.
Deputy Prosecutor Megan Whitmire said the main thing is Hurtado needs to come to terms with his mental illness.
He’s shown that his priorities are getting a job, making money and being a productive citizen, but eventually he ignores his illness and things start spiraling out of control, she said.
Whitmire said she is confident that if Hurtado takes advantage of what Eastern State Hospital has to offer him and works on understanding his mental illness, “he can be out pretty quickly and be a successful person.”