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Accused Pierce County killer’s release delayed, but prosecutor still worries he’ll be let loose

Western State Hospital

TACOMA, Wash. — A 63-year-old man accused of multiple violent crimes, including stabbing his roommate to death, may soon be on the streets.

Lawrence David Butterfield was set to be released from Western State Hospital Wednesday, the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office says. His release has been delayed, but it’s not known for how long.

Butterfield has spent years in Western State. First in 1977, after he allegedly attacked his own father. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and committed to the psychiatric hospital in 1980. He was released, and allegedly stabbed his roommate to death in 2010.

Butterfield was charged for the stabbing, but deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial. He has spent the last seven years at the psychiatric hospital.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said he recently learned Butterfield was going to be released Sept. 6. Lindquist sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee’s office requesting Butterfield continue commitment.

Lindquist said in the letter that Butterfield had little hope of recovering, according to doctors:

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.

Butterfield’s release was delayed, and a stay was issued. However, the length of the stay was not known.

“This is someone who is not safe to be released,” Lindquist told Q13 News.

Lindquist said if Butterfield is let out, he will refile murder charges.  But he prefers the accused killer get the help he need.

“We will use all legal options to protect the public,” he said.

The governor’s office could not confirm Butterfield was in treatment at Western State Hospital, given federal and state privacy laws.

Kelly Stowe, a spokesperson for the Department of Social and Health Services, said:

“The hospital has the responsibility to balance the need to treat patients while ensuring the safety of the staff and public. At the same time, a patient cannot be held longer than legally permitted.”

Stowe continued:

“Patients continue to be assessed up to the point of discharge. Before release, a forensic evaluation is conducted by a psychiatrist who does not serve on the patient’s treatment team to provide a fresh perspective on whether the patient is still qualified to be released. If a patient’s condition deteriorates after being released, they can be readmitted to the hospital.”

This story will be updated once Q13 News learns more about Butterfield’s possible release.