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Tacoma man pleads not guilty to killing father with hatchet

Post by Stacia Glenn / The News Tribune on Oct. 26, 2012 at 11:29 am |
October 26, 2012 2:00 pm

A Tacoma man accused of killing his father with a hatchet pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder this afternoon.

Jonathan Meline, 29, has been placed on suicide watch in the jail. He reportedly showed no emotion during his arraignment in Pierce County Superior Court and did not look at the family members who attended the hearing. Bail was set at $2 million.

Pierce County prosecutors allege Meline attacked his father, 56-year-old Robert Meline, while he was sleeping in bed early Thursday.

Charging documents give this account:

Jonathan Meline woke up about 2 a.m., drank coffee and walked into his father’s bedroom with a hatchet he bought the day after warning his father he was going to kill him.

Meline’s sister was sleeping downstairs. She heard thumps on the ceiling, her father screaming and Meline screaming “Die, die, die!”

She met her brother on the stairs and begged him not to kill her. He was carrying a bloody hatchet. Meline told his sister he wouldn’t harm her but had to kill their father because he believed he was hurting children.

Robert Meline was a sixth grade teacher in the Bethel School District.

Authorities said there is no indication he was hurting children and pointed to Jonathan Meline’s history of mental illness. Jonathan Meline was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Jonathan Meline and his sister walked 2 ½ miles to the Pierce County Jail, where he turned himself in.

Detectives found Robert Meline’s body in his bedroom. Medical examiners said he suffered numerous chopping injuries to his head and neck. The hatchet was found in the basement.

He told investigators he’d planned for months to kill his dad. He bought the hatchet on June 23.

Jonathan Meline was found mentally incompetent to stand trial for first-degree robbery and obstruction of a law enforcement officer in 2010. He was then civilly committed to Western State Hospital but was released Jan. 12 to his parents after doctors put him on medication and decided he “was no longer an imminent threat to himself or the community.”

“Nobody at Western State has a crystal ball, but someone with serious mental health problems should be in treatment and not on our streets,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “This case highlights the dangers posed by those with mental health issues.”

Students and teachers in Bethel mourned Robert Meline’s death today after students were notified of what happened. A letter was sent home with parents and extra counselors were on hand.

He joined the district in 1988 and taught at Camas Prairie Elementary School.

“Rob definitely made a difference, an impact in the lives of many children in the Bethel community,” district spokeswoman Krista Carlson said. “He will be deeply missed.”

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