SEQUIM — After nearly six months of evaluation at Western State Hospital, Bret Allen Kenney has been deemed incompetent by state medical professionals and unable to stand trial for the murder of his mother and alleged attempt to kill a Sequim police officer.
The May 31 evaluation says the 35-year-old Sequim man’s incompetency means he cannot assist in his own defense and is unlikely to regain competency in a reasonable period of time, according to court documents.
Kenney’s appointed defense attorney, John Hayden, said in an interview it’s possible Kenney could remain indefinitely in a hospital if civilly committed.
However, Michele Devlin, Clallam County chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, said if he is ever deemed competent, the four charges against him, including the first-degree murder charge, could be refiled since they were dismissed without prejudice.
Kenney faced charges of attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, disarming a law enforcement officer and first-degree premeditated murder with all four charges featuring special enhancements.
Judge Brent Basden ordered Kenney’s admission into Western State Hospital on June 24, 2022, and he was admitted on Dec. 19 for “psychiatric stabilization and the development of skills to adequately participate in a legal trial,” court documents say.
Kenney is accused of killing his 53-year-old mother, Teri Ward of Sequim, who was found dead May 19, 2022, in her home from multiple sharp-force injuries, court documents say.
Law enforcement had tried to contact her because of a welfare check request by a family member after Kenney was arrested earlier in the day.
Kenney had been released from incarceration on Jan. 14 and was living with Ward in Sequim, according to law enforcement officials.
Court documents give the following account:
Kenney was pulled over at 4:31 a.m. May 19 while driving at the Third Avenue/Washington Street intersection. He tackled officer Daniel Martinez minutes later.
The two wrestled for Martinez’s gun, which discharged. Four citizens and two Clallam County Sheriff’s deputies helped detain Kenney, who has four prior cases of assault on police officers.
Kenney had been admitted to Western State Hospital four times previously after criminal charges, according to court documents, and he was last restored to competency for trial in 2017 after a 90-day period.
The intent behind restoration, according to state officials, would be so Kenney could understand the nature of the charges against him and possible consequences, how the criminal justice system works and to see if he can help with his defense.
Following hospital officials’ findings, Basden on June 7 dismissed four of Kenney’s charges without prejudice, and he directed Western State Hospital to conduct a civil commitment evaluation.
Devlin said Ward’s family and Martinez were notified of the hospital’s findings and her office’s decision, but she would not divulge her conversations with them.
Multiple psychologists have diagnosed Kenney with schizophrenia, unspecified; stimulant use disorder; and alcohol use disorder, court documents said.
Last summer, Kenney filed motions from Clallam County jail asking for a new attorney, judge and prosecutors, calling Hayden a liar, while asking for a lawyer from Kitsap Bank to represent him. He also belittled his late mother, according to court documents.
Sequim Police Chief Sheri Crain said in an interview she “trusts the investigative team and prosecutor’s office are doing whatever they can in the system so that this case is brought forward and victims get the closure they deserve.”
“I am not speaking for them, but I understand and am empathetic to them,” Crain said.
“Of course the victims do not like the delay. Victims are probably frustrated and understandingly so.”
Crain added that this case, among many others, is an “indication that Washington needs a functioning mental health system for everything from forensic investigations to treatment.”
“It’s not robust enough,” Crain said.
She said it’s not atypical that Kenney and other accused criminals have been unable to be restored.
“At any given time, there’s a significant amount of people in the jail involved in mental health issues,” he said.
“Our county seems to have a larger percentage of population. It’s just an epidemic. The whole situation is a disaster.”
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.