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December 19, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Homeless man ruled insane in Seattle hatchet slayings

A homeless Seattle man who was charged with killing two strangers with a hatchet two years ago has been found not guilty by reason of insanity and ordered to remain at Western State Hospital.

Michael LaRosa, 28, has been treated at the mental hospital following his arrest for the slayings of  Joseph LaMagno, 58, and Dale Richard Holme, 64, in November 2010. The ruling last week by King County Superior Court Judge Bill Bowman followed a bench trial that relied on psychiatric evaluations from at least four Western State  physicians, court documents show.

LaRosa’s family has said he had a long struggle with mental illnesses before the unprovoked slayings of the two men, who were attacked one day apart.

According to charging documents, LaRosa claimed he was hearing voices when he killed LaMagno outside a Capitol Hill grocery on Nov. 22, 2010. The slaying happened in full view of schoolchildren, people on the street and a Metro bus full of passengers, prosecutors said.

LaRosa told police that he believed that LaMagno told him, “I gave your sister herpes, without having it,” according to the criminal charges.

Three months after LaRosa was arrested for LaMagna’s death, prosecutors charged him with the Nov. 21 slaying of Holmes in the Chinatown International District.

Holme had been found slumped at the base of a loading dock at Fifth Avenue South and South Weller Street with head injuries that were initially investigated as possibly related to a fall. Police did not connect the cases until after an autopsy was performed.

When homicide investigators talked to LaRosa about Holme’s slaying, LaRosa said he thought that Holme had given him a cigarette poisoned with gasoline, according to charging papers.

LaRosa said that he “felt like I had to defend myself” against Holme, so he pulled out the hatchet and struck the man “up to five times” in the head, charges said. After the attack, LaRosa put the weapon in his backpack and “casually walked away,” charging paperwork said.

Prosecutors said DNA from LaMagno and Holme was found on the hatchet in LaRosa’s backpack.

LaRosa was diagnosed more than 10 years ago with paranoid schizophrenia and placed on medication, his half-brother, Paul Umland, told The Times. Since moving to Seattle nearly five years ago, LaRosa had become a patient at Sound Mental Health on Capitol Hill and enrolled in Seattle Mental Health Court, a program designed to get mentally ill defendants treatment while their criminal case is working through the system.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: hatchet, Holme, International District


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