Lights & Sirens

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UPDATED: Man arrested in Western State Hospital slaying expected in court today

Post by Stacey Mulick / The News Tribune on April 23, 2012 at 6:29 am |
April 23, 2012 2:31 pm

UPDATED at 2 p.m.

A 40-year-old patient from Western State Hospital made his first court appearance today in the slaying of a fellow patient Friday afternoon.

Prosecutors decided to hold the man for 72 hours while the investigation continues. The man was ordered held in Pierce County Jail in lieu of $1 million on suspicion of second-degree murder. His arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday.

First responders were called to Western State about 3 p.m. Friday. They found Paul Montefusco, 28, dead in another patient’s room.

The 40-year-old patient who lived in the room was discovered hiding in another room nearby. He was arrested and reportedly confessed to the slaying.

An autopsy on Montefusco was scheduled for later today.

No information has been released about why the victim and suspect were at Western State and for how long. Thomas Shapley, spokesman for the state Department of Social and Health Services, said patient privacy and mental health laws prohibit the department from releasing information about the patients.

He did say both men had been civilly committed to the hospital’s civil unit. They were not in the hospital’s Center for Forensic Services, which houses patients who have been charged with crimes and are undergoing court-ordered mental health evaluations as well patients found not guilty by reason of insanity.

The forensic center is a locked, more secured unit. Those in the civil unit have a little more freedom. Patients can earn privileges and be able to walk the grounds or be out in the community.

“In the civil side, it’s very much individual related,” Shapley said.

Some patients cone voluntarily. Others are civilly committed by a court because of a mental health diagnosis, Shapley said.

Hospital CEO Jess Jamieson issued a statement over the weekend, calling the homicide “a tragic unexpected incident.”

“A  tragic death at our facility is extremely rare and we will do everything possible to prevent a similar occurrence,” the statement read. “Western State Hospital holds the safety of our patients, employees and the community as its highest priority.  Almost twenty years have passed since something similar occurred at the State’s largest psychiatric hospital.”

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