Arson charge against Sequim woman dropped

Katrina Shirie Spears will undergo civil commitment evaluation under Involuntary Treatment Act

PORT ANGELES — A first-degree arson charge has been dropped against a Sequim woman who allegedly set two fires in her home — one while her mother was asleep.

Katrina Shirie Spears, 42, whose mother was not injured in the Aug. 25 early evening incident on Narrows Way, must undergo a civil commitment evaluation under the state Involuntary Treatment Act, Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brent Basden decided Friday in dismissing the charge.

The charge of first-degree arson-domestic violence against Spears, who has spent much of her adult life institutionalized, carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a $50,000 fine.

Spears, who has a history of mental health treatment at Western State Hospital dating back to 2001 and seven psychiatric hospitalizations, was civilly committed to Western State for 12 years until January 2019, according to a Jan. 24, 2020, forensic mental health evaluation report by the state Department of Social and Health Services filed Friday with the court.

Spears, released to a group home following her release from Western State, stopped taking her medications, did not follow up with mental health providers and moved on her own to San Diego, according to the report.

She became homeless and used alcohol and drugs, including crack cocaine and methamphetamine, “partying” in San Diego before returning to the Pacific Northwest to live with her mother, according to the report.

Spears has a history of homelessness, trauma, substance abuse, psychosis and sexually inappropriate behaviors, according to the evaluation.

The Longview native dropped out of school in the 11th grade with a history of academic and behavioral problems and worked as a janitor, but had no recent employment history.

“Ms. Spears has a long history of chronic psychosis dating back at least 20-25 years characterized by labile mood/affect, mania at times, auditory hallucinations, disorganized thinking/speech, mental disorganization, impaired speech, impaired cognition, impaired impulse control and poor boundaries,” according to the evaluation.

“Current cognitive impairment renders her unable to appreciate her legal peril and realistically consider the possible legal defenses,” it said.

“Should she be required to follow fast-paced courtroom procedures, testify and be subject to cross examination, her current cognitive abilities would not be up to this task.

“Should the court find that Ms. Spears is incompetent to stand trial, there does not appear to be a substantial likelihood that her competency-related abilities would be restored in a reasonable amount of time.

“Therefore, an additional period of restoration is not recommended.”

Spears allegedly set one of two fires the evening of Aug. 25 in her bedroom, according to the probable cause statement.

The bed was fully engulfed, flames spreading to the carpet and items around the bed when Clallam County Fire District 3 firefighters arrived at about 8:30 that night, according to the probable cause statement.

Shortly afterward, they discovered a fire on a couch in the living room that had started on a blanket, spreading to cushions, according to the statement.

Spears’ mother said she had fallen asleep in the living room while her daughter went outside to smoke a cigarette when a smoke detector woke her up.

Spears’ mother said her daughter told her there was a fire in the bedroom, according to the statement.

Her mother ran to a neighbor’s to call 9-1-1. When Spears’ mother returned, the blanket on the back of the couch was burning.

Spears told authorities she used a lighter to start the fires “in hopes to collect insurance money,” according to the statement.

She said she did not intend to harm her mother.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.

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