PORT ANGELES — A Bainbridge Island High School junior accused of murdering a Sequim-area woman and killing her dog must undergo a mental health evaluation to determine whether he is capable of entering pleas on charges of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and first-degree animal cruelty.
Benjamin Bonner, 18, who has a delusion disorder, according to a Peninsula Behavioral Health mental health assessment, must undergo a forensic mental health evaluation, Clallam County Superior Court Judge Erik Rohrer ruled Friday, the same day Bonner was expected to enter pleas on the charges.
Rohrer set a status hearing on the case for 9 a.m. June 16.
“The court finds that there is reason to doubt the defendant’s competency,” according to the court order mandating the evaluation.
Bonner, who remained in the Clallam County jail Tuesday on $1.5 million bail, is accused of murdering family friend and children’s advocate Cynthia Little, 71, on May 4 in her Sequim-area Sunland Golf &Country Club home.
He allegedly killed her the day after being released from a mental facility for threatening his adoptive mother, according to the arrest report.
Bonner allegedly took his parents’ SUV without their permission to Little’s home, where he beat Little to death with a fireplace poker, according to the arrest report.
He told authorities he was defending himself against Little, his mother’s longtime friend, who had been described as “like a grandmother figure” to Bonner.
Bonner said Little “tried to attack him by grabbing at him; which he demonstrated as a hugging motion,” according to a probable-cause statement by Sheriff’s Detective Brian Knutson.
The statement said that Little, a volunteer with Court Appointed Special Advocates, repeated “I love you” as Bonner beat her.
Bonner was given a mental health assessment by Port Angeles-based Peninsula Behavioral Health, according to a May 10 report signed by clinician Mac McIntyre.
“It seems obvious that [Bonner] is suffering from some form of a Delusional Disorder (he denied hearing voices or seeing hallucinations) or possibly the beginning of unspecified schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorder,” according to the assessment.
“Client was for the most part consistent with his story that he is the victim of this awful event and he does not know what happened to change what he thought was a safe environment to a dangerous one that he had to defend for all his might.”
Bonner said in the PBH assessment interview that he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at age 8 and treated with medication until age 14.
“Client does not take responsibility for the event that led to the death of his friend, Cynthia Little, and her dog,” according to the assessment.
During the assessment, Bonner spoke of “things starting to ‘go weird’ ” a few days before Little’s death when he was kept out of school.
His anti-psychotic medication was adjusted during the previous week when he received pain medication for dental care he received, according to the arrest report.
He told the PBH evaluator that Little lied to him the night of her death.
“This all leading to how Cynthia changed and that the person who he scuffled with and then hit repeatedly was not Cynthia,” according to the assessment.
“ ‘And when she did grab me I thought, “This is not Cynthia” and I hit her and hit her,’ ” the assessment quotes Bonner as saying.
“Then he explained why he hit the dog too, as he judged that it was aggressive to him.”
During the interview, Bonner said he was innocent.
“ ‘I didn’t know anything was going to happen. I was at the home for safety. Something happened with Cynthia,’ ” Bonner said during the assessment.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].