Suspect In Eastern State Hospital Murder Competent To Stand Tria - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Suspect In Eastern State Hospital Murder Competent To Stand Trial

Posted: Updated:

SPOKANE, Wash – It's been nearly five months since a psychiatric patient at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake murdered another patient by strangling him; and now, psychologists have deemed Amber Roberts is competent to stand trial.

Court records show Roberts was admitted to Western State Hospital near Tacoma to undergo an evaluation to determine whether she is competent to stand trial.  The assessment included her family history, past drug use and mental illness among other factors.  Records show Roberts has three young children, but does not have custody of either of them.  She admitted to two suicide attempts when she was a teenager, and a long-history of drug abuse including meth, cocaine, heroin, LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, opiates and abusing lighter fluid.

Her mother said when Roberts was on drugs she'd become physically aggressive, kicking and hitting people.

Roberts told evaluators she was diagnosed as bi-polar and schizophrenic, and "I stay in the Bible," and "God wants me to tell the truth."

Evaluators determined she "appears to possess the capacity to have a factual and a rational understanding of the charges and court proceedings she faces.  She also appears to have the capacity to consult with her attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding, and to assist her attorney in her defense."

Court records show Roberts was found pacing the hallway in the middle of the night November 20, 2012, when she told a staffer "I murdered someone but you'll have to find him."

Public records from the Department of Social and Health Services reveal the first-hand accounts of what happened that night, by two staff members called to the room. 

Roberts "stopped me and said, ‘I killed someone, do you believe me?'" and later "'I strangled him with an electrical cord, and he put up a struggle,'" wrote the staffer who initially made contact with Roberts in the hallway that night.

The body of Duane Charley was found down the hall on the floor of his room covered by a blanket, in the Forensic Services Unit where patients are sent who have been convicted of a crime of acquitted of one by reason of insanity.

Once nurses approached Charley's room, Roberts "pulled back the blanket and said, ‘Do you think you can handle this?'" the same staffer wrote, "There was blood around his head…pillow…and hands."

The CEO of Eastern State Hospital notified Charley's family of his death, and records reveal, "It was difficult to track what interventions, if any, happened when the patient was found.  The RN's assessment was ‘patient unresponsive.'"

As Roberts was taken to jail, investigators scoured the rooms for evidence, but they didn't find the murder weapon.  Records show cleaning staff found a green electrical cord with what appeared to be dried blood underneath a bed.

Charley had been a patient at ESH since 1995, and Roberts was admitted in 2004 after being acquitted of attempted murder in a separate choking case by reason of insanity.  It's not clear if the two knew each other, or why Roberts allegedly picked him.

In the wake of the ongoing investigation, the hospital's accreditation was pulled, but has since been restored as ESH worked to address ongoing safety concerns.

Roberts is due back in court later this week.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • 44 Riverside homes destroyed or damaged in storm

    44 Riverside homes destroyed or damaged in storm

    Thursday, July 24 2014 3:46 PM EDT2014-07-24 19:46:53 GMT
    RIVERSIDE, Wash. - Many families were still at the Red Cross Shelter set up at Riverside High School in Riverside this morning.An afternoon storm destroyed or damaged 44 of their homes and knocked down close to 100 trees in Riverside Village Mobile Home Park.Many residents said the storm looked like a tornado as it swept through their neighborhood.>>
    RIVERSIDE, Wash. - Many families were still at the Red Cross Shelter set up at Riverside High School in Riverside this morning.An afternoon storm destroyed or damaged 44 of their homes and knocked down close to 100 trees in Riverside Village Mobile Home Park.Many residents said the storm looked like a tornado as it swept through their neighborhood.>>
  • 10 Cheapest Houses For Sale In Spokane

    10 Cheapest Houses For Sale In Spokane

    Wednesday, November 27 2013 2:35 AM EST2013-11-27 07:35:08 GMT
    Whether you are in the market for an affordable place to live or are in the business of flipping houses, here are the 10 cheapest homes for sale in Spokane according to AllSpokaneHomes.com.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Whether you are in the market for an affordable place to live or are in the business of flipping houses, here are the 10 cheapest homes for sale in Spokane according to AllSpokaneHomes.com. Yes, they all need some work and some need a lot more than others, but when your mortgage payment is around the $200/month range there's at least something to stay positive about.>>
  • Person injured by falling tree branches outside Spokane courthouse

    Person injured by falling tree branches outside Spokane courthouse

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:35 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:35:37 GMT
    One person was injured when strong winds caused tree branches to fall to the ground outside the Spokane County Courthouse in Wednesday afternoon.Fire crews and police officers told KHQ the person who was hit by the branches was quickly taken to the hospital.>>
    One person was injured when strong winds caused tree branches to fall to the ground outside the Spokane County Courthouse in Wednesday afternoon.Fire crews and police officers told KHQ the person who was hit by the branches was quickly taken to the hospital.>>
  • Top Stories from KHQTop StoriesMore>>

  • NOTICE: Possible water shortage in Boundary County; Conserve water!

    NOTICE: Possible water shortage in Boundary County; Conserve water!

    Thursday, July 24 2014 5:06 PM EDT2014-07-24 21:06:19 GMT
    KHQ.COM - Cabinet Mountain Water District in Boundary County, Idaho is asking all customers to curb their water usage because of the power outage. In the event that power is not able to be restored, there could be a water shortage. Again, this is only for Cabinet Mountain Water District users in Boundary County, Idaho.>>
    KHQ.COM - Cabinet Mountain Water District in Boundary County, Idaho is asking all customers to curb their water usage because of the power outage. In the event that power is not able to be restored, there could be a water shortage. Again, this is only for Cabinet Mountain Water District users in Boundary County, Idaho.>>
  • PHOTOS: Severe storm causes power outages, damage to homes

    PHOTOS: Severe storm causes power outages, damage to homes

    Thursday, July 24 2014 5:37 PM EDT2014-07-24 21:37:32 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - A storm seemed to leave just as fast as it arrived Wednesday in Spokane. High winds blew over trees and utility lines, causing widespread power outages and some severe property damage. INSIDE>>>| Power Outages | PHOTOS |>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - A storm seemed to leave just as fast as it arrived Wednesday in Spokane. High winds blew over trees and utility lines, causing widespread power outages and some severe property damage. INSIDE>>>| Power Outages | PHOTOS |>>
  • Pend Oreille PUD: Wind storm power outage

    Pend Oreille PUD: Wind storm power outage

    Thursday, July 24 2014 5:36 PM EDT2014-07-24 21:36:36 GMT
    PEND OREILLE COUNTY, Wash. - At this time, Pend Oreille PUD has approximately 4,000 customers without power, primarily in the southern portion of the county. Line repair estimates available at this time include the following areas: Gregg’s Addition and Conklin Meadows, Deeter and McCloud Creek Roads and South County. >>>MORE INFO>>>>>
    PEND OREILLE COUNTY, Wash. - At this time, Pend Oreille PUD has approximately 4,000 customers without power, primarily in the southern portion of the county. Line repair estimates available at this time include the following areas: Gregg’s Addition and Conklin Meadows, Deeter and McCloud Creek Roads and South County. >>>MORE INFO>>>
    >>