A Kennewick man was insane in January when he threatened to kill officers during a five-hour standoff at a Kennewick apartment.
Judge Cameron Mitchell ruled Tuesday in Benton County Superior Court that Ronald Joseph Vailencour, 48, was "not guilty by reason of insanity." He also found, however, that Vailencour is a substantial danger to others unless kept under control by the court or other institutions and ordered Vailencour sent to Eastern State Hospital for further evaluation.
"This is one of those rare examples when the mental health hospital works with the court system," said defense attorney Scott Johnson. "At the time of this offense he was ... out of his mind."
Vailencour, who has a history of mental illness and drug use, could be held at Eastern State Hospital for up to 10 years, Johnson said, but acknowledged that his client won't be kept there for 10 years. He likely will be evaluated and released to a less-restrictive place where he will be constantly monitored, Johnson said.
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"Mr. Vailencour knows that he has this 10 years hanging over his head," Johnson said. "Had he just pled and done his time, he'd be out."
Deputy Prosecutor Megan Whitmire did not object to the insanity plea.
Vailencour had been charged with nine counts of felony harassment, with aggravating circumstances that the victims are law enforcement officers. He also faced residential burglary and second-degree malicious mischief charges, which both had domestic violence allegations.
Vailencour was arrested Jan. 2 after breaking into his ex-wife's apartment and a neighbor called police.
When officers got on scene, they found a shattered sliding glass door and saw the blinds in a second-floor window moving. They identified themselves, and that's when Vailencour allegedly yelled back, "I have a gun, and I'm going to shoot you, just let me finish this cigarette!"
The nine officers who surrounded the apartment feared for their lives because of the threat, Whitmire stated in court documents. They backed away, called out the Tri-City Regional SWAT Team and eventually took Vailencour into custody with help from a K-9 unit.
Officers found empty pill bottles in the apartment and a note that said "I am so sorry that I violated you this way, I just want to die, Oh God," court documents stated.
Vailencour was sent to Eastern State Hospital and found to be not competent to stand trial. The proceedings were stayed for three months, and he went back to the Medical Lake psychiatric hospital to have his competency restored.
During the last evaluation, psychologists found Vailencour was competent and understood the proceedings but was not legally sane at the time of the offense. Vailencour said he had no memory of the incident.
He said he had been relatively stable on medications until he lost his Government Assistance Expedited Medicaid Disability and was unable to get his prescriptions for about two months, the Eastern State report said.
By the time the benefits were restored, he had again started to hear -- and believe -- threatening voices in his head. He said he took a bus to Kennewick to see his daughter and ex-wife and planned to commit suicide.
Before breaking into his ex-wife's apartment, Vailencour reportedly had been staying at an ex-girlfriend's place. He said he did not remember leaving his former girlfriend's home, but the next thing he remembered was seeing glass on a white floor, documents said.
Vailencour said he must have been in his ex-wife's kitchen because that's the only place with a white floor. He also said he remember sitting on the bed and "choking on pills," before waking up in the hospital.
Eastern State Hospital staff said they don't know if illegal drugs were a factor in Vailencour's behavior, but if drugs had been ingested, it likely triggered an "established, settled psychotic condition," documents said.
Johnson acknowledged the whole incident was unsettling and Vailencour's insanity at the time doesn't give any solace to the police officers or Vailencour's ex-wife and daughter.
But he said because of his client's mental illness, "there's no way he can be legally culpable."
Judge Mitchell told Vailencour that he needs to make sure he stays on top of his medications and to seek out help if he finds a problem starting.
Vailencour replied, "I do realize I need to stay on this."