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June 28, 2012 at 6:01 PM

Mass killer Zamora to stay in mental hospital

A Skagit County judge has ruled that mass murderer Isaac Zamora will remain at Western State Hospital indefinitely rather than be sent to prison, according to the Skagit Valley Herald.

Superior Court Judge Michael Rickert ruled this morning that Zamora has not met the legal or hospital criteria to be released from Western State Hospital, where he has lived full-time for the past 2 1/2 years. The ruling came at the end of a three-day hearing to determine whether the 31-year-old mental hospital patient was ready to be moved to prison.

Rickert called Zamora “the most mentally ill criminal in the history of Skagit County,” according to the Herald.

On Sept. 2, 2008, Zamora broke into a neighbor’s house and stole a shotgun and a rifle.

Zamora then went to the home of his neighbor and friend, Chester Rose, and killed him. He then fatally shot Skagit County sheriff’s Deputy Anne Jackson.

Down the street, he killed carpenters David Radcliffe and Greg Gillum, who had been working on another neighbor’s home, and stole their truck.

He next killed Julie Binschus and wounded her husband at their home. He fled in the stolen pickup toward Interstate 5, where he fired upon several people, killing motorist LeRoy Lange and injuring a State Patrol trooper before surrendering in Mount Vernon.

He would later tell a judge, “I kill for God.”

The state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), which oversees the mental hospital where Zamora resides under 24-hour security, wanted him to be imprisoned, saying he poses a security risk and no longer requires hospital-based psychiatric treatment.

The hearing turned on the unusual nature of Zamora’s 2009 plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to four murders but was found not guilty by reason of insanity for two others. It will also tested a new law that allows the state to request that mentally ill criminal offenders such as Zamora be imprisoned rather than treated indefinitely at a state mental hospital.

Criminal defendants who are found not guilty by reason of insanity are sent to the forensic unit of a state hospital for treatment. So-called forensic patients, after treatment, can petition the courts for release if their mental health is stabilized to the point that they could re-enter society. A judge makes the decision, with input from the state’s mental-health experts and attorneys.

The new law, passed in 2010, also allows DSHS to petition for a patient’s transfer, even if the patient opposes the move.

But the law does not affect only people such as Zamora, who has been convicted and sentenced to prison. The law says any forensic patient who is deemed to present “an unreasonable safety risk” and is considered unmanageable in the hospital setting may be placed in a secure DOC facility.

Opponents of the new law say giving DSHS the ability to petition courts to have forensic patients transferred to prison sets a dangerous precedent and favors incarceration over treatment.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Department of Social and Health Services, homicide, Isaac Zamora

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