OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Thurston County prosecutors have filed a first-degree murder charge against a man found driving a pickup truck with a dead woman in the passenger seat. They say 26-year-old Bernard K. Howell of Tenino is charged in the death of 60-year-old Vanda Boone. She recently moved to the Olympia, Wash., area from Long Island City, N.Y., and worked as a massage therapist.

A judge on Thursday ordered Howell to undergo a mental health evaluation at Western State Hospital to help determine whether he's competent to stand trial.

According to court papers, Howell told police when his truck was pulled over Sunday night that he just wanted to save the dead woman's family "the $5,000 it would cost to bury her."

Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock says Boone died after her throat was slashed. Detectives think the woman was walking or biking on a trail when she was attacked Sunday.

Spokesman Steve Klein of Ramtha's School of Enlightenment tells The Olympian that Boone studied there and says the school will arrange and pay for Boone's funeral.


      (Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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