Hearing to decide if accused murderer should be made to take medication

Benjamin Bonner

PORT ANGELES — A Bainbridge Island teen charged with killing a 71-year-old Sequim woman will have a court hearing this month to determine whether he should be medicated to restore his competency.

Benjamin George Bonner, 18, will have a Sell hearing in Clallam County Superior Court on Sept. 12.

Prosecutors requested the hearing to compel the involuntary administration of anti-psychotic medication to restore Bonner’s competency, court papers said.

Bonner is being held at Western State Hospital in Lakewood.

Bonner was charged May 9 with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and first-degree animal cruelty for allegedly killing family friend Cynthia Little and her pet dog with a fire poker at her Sunland residence May 4 and driving off with Little’s car.

The murder charge carried special allegations — vulnerable victim and deliberate cruelty — that could lengthen Bonner’s sentence if convicted. Each count had a deadly weapon enhancement.

Bonner has not been arraigned.

In Sell v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court set limits in 2003 on the rights of lower courts to order the forcible administration of anti-psychotic medication to those who have been found incompetent to stand trial.

A competency assessment performed at Western State on Aug. 3 said Bonner appeared to lack the capacity to understand the nature of the proceedings against him and the capacity to assist in his own defense.

The Aug. 8 assessment, for which Bonner refused to be interviewed, concluded that Bonner “lacks the current capacity to consult with his attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding.”

The assessment said Bonner met diagnostic criteria for unspecified schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorder and had a history of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Based on that report, the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and Clallam Public Defender agreed to have Bonner’s competency restored at Western State.

The agreed order did not authorize involuntary medication for Bonner as requested by Western State, court papers said.

With a Sept. 12 hearing scheduled and an order for Bonner’s transportation signed, a Friday status hearing was stricken.

In a later interview, Clallam County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin said it was her expectation that Bonner would go to trial.

“That’s the direction we’re headed,” Devlin said in a telephone interview. “We’re kind of in the early stages.”

Bonner allegedly took his adoptive parents’ SUV without their permission to Little’s home and beat her to death with a fireplace poker on May 4, according to the arrest report.

Little was found lying face down surrounded by large amounts of blood and blood spatter, Clallam County Sheriff’s Detective Brian Knutson said in the arrest narrative.

A dog was found lying dead near the body, Knutson said.

Bonner allegedly killed Little, a children’s advocate, one day after being released from a mental facility for threatening his mother and harming a cat.

Little was described in court documents as a “grandmother figure” to Bonner.

Bonner told Clallam County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Keegan that Little tried to attack him by grabbing him, which he demonstrated as a hugging motion.

Bonner said he struck Little in self defense.

“Benjamin estimated that he struck Cynthia 15 times with the fire poker,” Knutson wrote in the affidavit for probable cause.

The affidavit said that Little repeated “I love you” as Bonner hit her.

Bonner said Little’s pet dog began biting at him after she was motionless. He said he strangled the dog in an attempt to kill it.

“Shortly after the dog lay motionless, it woke up and Benjamin used the fire poker to strike the dog; killing it,” Knutson wrote.

Bonner was arrested at his Bainbridge Island residence May 5. Little’s vehicle was found outside the home.

Bonner, who was adopted from Russia when he was 1, was suspended from Bainbridge Island High School for behavioral problems prior to the murder.

He had taken pain medication for dental care and had an adjustment to his anti-psychotic medication on or about April 30, court papers said.

“Since the medication adjustment, Benjamin was having mental episodes, hearing voices and suffering hallucinations,” Knutson wrote.

“Benjamin recently claimed that his best friend was an android.”

Bonner is being held on $1.5 million bail.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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