The Honorable Jay Inslee
Governor of Washington
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002
Re: WSH proposed release of Lawrence David Butterfield
Dear Governor Inslee:
I am asking you to intervene to prevent officials at Western State Hospital (WSH) from conditionally releasing a schizophrenic, intellectually disabled man with a long history of violent behavior. The last time Lawrence Butterfield was conditionally released, it resulted in my office charging him with murder in the first degree. Although we originally filed the case in 2010, we have been unable to prosecute it because Mr. Butterfield is so mentally ill that he has never been found competent to stand trial.
Mr. Butterfield has a long history of violent behavior. WSH records indicate that two armed assaults against his father were dismissed due to his lack of competency. In 1977 he was charged again, with assault with intent to kill, and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. This resulted in his commitment to WSH in 1980. In 2002, WSH conditionally released him into Pierce County despite him having no prior connection to this county.
In 2010, my office charged him with murder for stabbing his roommate to death. Mr. Butterfield told the arresting officer he had been hearing voices that told him to kill so he went out and acquired a hunting knife. The murder charge against Mr. Butterfield was dismissed in 2011 when he was found not competent and not restorable. The charge was refiled in 2013, 2014, and 2017, because my office received notice that WSH was again proposing to conditionally release Mr. Butterfield into the community. Each time we had to dismiss our prosecution when the doctors concluded that Mr. Butterfield was not competent to stand trial and that it was unlikely competency could be restored.
The most recent competency evaluation, dated July 20, 2017, states that Mr. Butterfield has active auditory hallucinations and that he believes these voices emanate from a microphone that has been placed in his brain. Doctors on the forensic side of WSH have repeatedly found Mr. Butterfield to be at a “moderate to high risk for future serious dangerous behavior” provided that he is on his medications. They assess that this risk is significantly higher if he is not on his medications. His history demonstrates a pattern of predictable violent behavior. In short, Mr. Butterfield is not healthy enough to be out in the community and he poses a severe risk to others.
Nonetheless, doctors on the civil commitment side of WSH have scheduled his release on September 6, 2017, and his release plan will have him residing at the Alpha Palace Home in Lakewood and receiving his mental health treatment at Expanded Community Services in Puyallup. His plan does not specify how he will travel from one location to another. His release plan consists of fourteen detailed conditions. From his competency evaluation, there is no indication that he has the mental capacity to understand, remember, or adhere to these conditions. The July 20, 2017, evaluation states that “he continues to exhibit disorganized thoughts and confusion and cognitive slowing” and that he “appeared unable to process information[.]” The proposed release plan is setting Mr. Butterfield up for failure and placing the community at risk.
Mr. Butterfield suffers from serious mental health issues. He deserves quality treatment in a secure setting.
While my office has tried to prevent his release, the criminal justice system was not designed to handle persons so mentally ill that they will never be competent to stand trial. Now it is up to the professionals in the civil commitment arena to protect the public from a mentally ill person who poses a great risk to public safety. The civil commitment doctors at WSH who are proposing Mr. Butterfield’s release do not seem to be taking the safety of the community into consideration or the risk assessment of their own doctors on the forensic side. The last time Mr. Butterfield was conditionally released he took a man’s life.
Governor, I know you share my commitment to protecting the public and keeping our communities safe. Therefore, I am asking you to intervene and prevent Western State from releasing Mr. Butterfield into the community.
Prosecutor Mark Lindquist
cc: J. Smith, Executive Director of Communications
M. Jones, Interim CEO, Western State Hospital
Senator H. Zeiger, 25th District
Representative M. Stambaugh, 25th District
Representative J. McDonald, 25th District
Senator S. O’Ban, 28th District
Representative D. Muri, 28th District
Representative C. Kilduff, 28th District
Senator S. Conway, 29th District
Representative D. Sawyer, 29th District
Representative S. Kirby, 29th District