Accused murder suspect is dead

Man was on court order at hospital

LAKEWOOD — An Agnew man accused of killing his father and his father’s girlfriend has been found dead at Western State Hospital in Lakewood.

Christopher L. Haltom, 41, had been charged with the first-degree murders of his father, Clay Lee Haltom, 60, and Bryana Eila Presser, 43. A court hearing had been set for today.

The cause of death will be determined by an autopsy, authorities said.

Don Wenzel, Clallam County chief corrections deputy, received an email Wednesday morning from Melissa Hanson, chief operating officer at the Bruce Gage Forensic Center at Western State Hospital in Lakewood, 10 miles southwest of Tacoma.

“I am writing to you to let you know that one of our patients, who was sent here under court order from Clallam County, has passed away on 5-15-23,” the email said. “The patient name is Christopher Haltom, DOB: 7-4-81.

“According to our records he had a pending court date of this week, 5-19-23 and was here on a court order since 2-17-23,” the email said.

Clallam County Sheriff Brian King wrote in a Wednesday afternoon email that the sheriff’s office didn’t have any details regarding the cause or manner of Haltom’s death.

“We have been informed an autopsy is pending, but I don’t suspect we will receive any more information on his death until the autopsy is completed,” he wrote.

Tyler Hemstreet, spokesperson for the state Department of Social and Health Services, wrote in a Wednesday afternoon email that the Pierce County Medical Examiner is the handling the autopsy so he had no idea regarding a possible timeline. DSHS oversees Western State Hospital.

The investigation is being handled by the Lakewood Police Department, he wrote.

The convicted felon had been a person of interest in the murders since the two people were found shot dead in a car in Agnew on Feb. 24, 2022, King said then.

Their bodies were discovered in the front seat of their car across the street from their Wild Currant Way home, their vehicle resting against a tree, King had said. Both had suffered gunshot wounds to the back of their heads, investigators said.

Haltom had been in custody at the Clallam County jail since March 2022 on lesser charges, which were dropped.

He had had at least two previous stints in Western State Hospital, where he was diagnosed with unspecified schizophrenia disorder, bipolar disorder and substance abuse disorder.

He was transferred to Western State Hospital in February to undergo another competency evaluation to determine if he was fit to stand trial for the murder charges.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at brian.gawley@soundpublishing.com.

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