PORT ANGELES — Benjamin G. Bonner is scheduled to be sentenced today for the death of Cynthia Little of Sequim.
Bonner, 20, of Bainbridge Island will likely be committed to Western State Hospital after the parties enter a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity, attorney John Hayden said Monday.
Clallam County Chief Criminal Deputy Michele Devlin confirmed that a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity would be entered.
Bonner is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree animal cruelty and first-degree robbery for allegedly beating Little to death with a fireplace poker, killing her dog and taking her vehicle in May 2017.
Little was described in court papers as a family friend and grandmother figure to Bonner. She was 71.
The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office said Bonner beat Little with the metal instrument as Little repeatedly told him “I love you.”
A four-hour sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. today in Clallam County Superior Court.
“It’s going to be pretty emotional,” Hayden said.
“This was a completely preventable incident, and the system failed.”
Clallam County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Knutson said Bonner’s anti-psychotic medication was adjusted April 30, 2017, when he was prescribed pain medication for a dental procedure.
“Since the medication adjustment, Benjamin was having mental episodes, hearing voices and suffering hallucinations,” Knutson wrote in the affidavit for probable cause.
The killing occurred one day after Bonner was released from a mental health treatment facility for threatening his mother and harming a cat, investigators said.
Bonner, who was adopted from Russia as an infant, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in January 2018.
State psychiatrist Barry Ward of the Office of Forensic Mental Health Services concluded in a November report that Bonner had paranoid schizophrenia, marijuana use disorder and was “acutely psychotic” at the time of Little’s killing.
Hayden said his client would likely be referred to the state Department of Social and Health Services, which operates the 800-bed Western State Hospital in Lakewood, for indeterminate custody.
“He goes to Western State and stays there until they find that he shoudn’t be there,” Hayden said.
The court will determine whether Bonner goes to prison, and for how long, if he is released from Western State, Hayden said.
“You come up periodically for review,” he said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].