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>>

  • BEAUTIFUL HOMES: Top 10 Most Expensive Homes For Sale In CDA

    BEAUTIFUL HOMES: Top 10 Most Expensive Homes For Sale In CDA

    Tuesday, March 25 2014 9:20 AM EDT2014-03-25 13:20:34 GMT
    KHQ.COM - When it comes to shopping around for a house, it's always fun to dream. We did a search for some of the most expensive homes for sale right now in the Coeur d' Alene area.>>
    KHQ.COM - When it comes to shopping around for a house, it's always fun to dream. We did a search for some of the most expensive homes for sale right now in the Coeur d' Alene area.>>
  • LOOKING FOR A HOME? 10 Homes For Sale In Spokane For $125,000

    LOOKING FOR A HOME? 10 Homes For Sale In Spokane For $125,000

    Thursday, April 17 2014 5:56 PM EDT2014-04-17 21:56:12 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Spring is a popular time to purchase and sell a home. Here are 10 homes for sale in Spokane for $125,000. These homes were found on www.WindermereSpokane.com. If you would like more information on any of these homes or would like to schedule a tour, contact your real estate agent with the correct MLS number.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Spring is a popular time to purchase and sell a home. Here are 10 homes for sale in Spokane for $125,000. These homes were found on www.WindermereSpokane.com. If you would like more information on any of these homes or would like to schedule a tour, contact your real estate agent with the correct MLS number.>>
  • Family's Car Catches Fire Inside Lion Enclosure

    Family's Car Catches Fire Inside Lion Enclosure

    Sunday, April 20 2014 2:57 PM EDT2014-04-20 18:57:30 GMT
    (NBC)- A British family was forced to flee their car inside a lion enclosure, after the vehicle caught fire. Other visitors shot amateur footage of the car on fire. Helen Clements, who was in the car with her two children, said they were caught between wanting to escape the burning car while evading the lions.>>
    (NBC)- A British family was forced to flee their car inside a lion enclosure, after the vehicle caught fire. Other visitors shot amateur footage of the car on fire. Helen Clements, who was in the car with her two children, said they were caught between wanting to escape the burning car while evading the lions.
    >>
  • Top Stories from KHQTop StoriesMore>>

  • Log Rolls Over And Kills WA Boy On Boy Scout Trip

    Log Rolls Over And Kills WA Boy On Boy Scout Trip

    Monday, April 21 2014 10:47 AM EDT2014-04-21 14:47:18 GMT
    LILLIWAUP, Wash. (AP) - A 12-year-old Washington state boy on a Boy Scout trip has died after a log that he and his friends were pushing down a hill caught his jacket and rolled over him. The Kitsap Sun reports that the boy and three friends were trying to roll the log down a rocky slope Saturday into Lena Lake in the Olympic National Forest, across Puget Sound from Seattle.>>
    LILLIWAUP, Wash. (AP) - A 12-year-old Washington state boy on a Boy Scout trip has died after a log that he and his friends were pushing down a hill caught his jacket and rolled over him. The Kitsap Sun reports that the boy and three friends were trying to roll the log down a rocky slope Saturday into Lena Lake in the Olympic National Forest, across Puget Sound from Seattle.
    >>
  • Boston Marathon Begins Under Tight Security

    Boston Marathon Begins Under Tight Security

    Monday, April 21 2014 10:28 AM EDT2014-04-21 14:28:56 GMT
    BOSTON (AP) - The 118th running of the Boston Marathon has begun amid heavy security a year after the bombings near the race's finish line that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others. The race began at 8:50 a.m. Monday for mobility-impaired marathoners and at 9:32 a.m. for elite women.>>
    BOSTON (AP) - The 118th running of the Boston Marathon has begun amid heavy security a year after the bombings near the race's finish line that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others. The race began at 8:50 a.m. Monday for mobility-impaired marathoners and at 9:32 a.m. for elite women.
    >>
  • Driver In Critical Condition After Crash On Maple Street Bridge

    Driver In Critical Condition After Crash On Maple Street Bridge

    Monday, April 21 2014 10:12 AM EDT2014-04-21 14:12:47 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - A car crashed into a cement median at Walnut and 2nd at the entrance to the Maple Street Bridge early Monday morning around 3:30 a.m. Witnesses told police the driver did not stop at the flashing red light on 2nd and appeared to be driving excessively fast. Police are investigating this is as a potential DUI.
    >>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - A car crashed into a cement median at Walnut and 2nd at the entrance to the Maple Street Bridge early Monday morning around 3:30 a.m. Witnesses told police the driver did not stop at the flashing red light on 2nd and appeared to be driving excessively fast. Police are investigating this is as a potential DUI.
    >>