Sequim man found incompetent to stand trial in his murder case

Attorney general’s office could argue to have him committed

SEQUIM — State officials say behavioral health privacy protections prohibit them from saying whether or not a Sequim man has been civilly committed after being accused of murdering his mother and attempting to kill a police officer last year.

Bret Allen Kenney, 35, was deemed incompetent by state medical professionals in late May and unable to stand trial after about six months of evaluation at Western State Hospital in Lakewood.

According to court documents, Kenney’s incompetency means he cannot assist in his own defense and is unlikely to regain competency in a reasonable period of time.

Michele Devlin, Clallam County chief criminal deputy prosecutor, said state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office filed a petition to civilly commit Kenney for 180 days at a June 27 court date in Pierce County.

Brionna Aho, communications director for Ferguson’s office, said she could not provide information about specific civil commitment cases due to behavioral health privacy laws, “even to confirm whether the case exists.”

She did share how the civil commitment process generally works.

“First, the court will enter an order of dismissal of the criminal charges that would indicate the defendant was ordered to the state hospital for evaluation for civil commitment,” she said.

“Everything from this point forward is related to behavioral health treatment, and therefore is not public, due to behavioral health privacy protections.”

Doctors at Western State would evaluate Kenney and could file a petition to have him detained under civil commitment if he meets criteria under RCW 10.77, a “Criminally Insane” statute, Aho said.

“Our office would be involved in presenting evidence to the court for a civil commitment under 10.77 RCW on behalf of our client, the Department of Social and Health Services,” she said.

Clallam County Superior Court 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.

One of Kenney’s four charges was for the first-degree murder of 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.

The other three charges — attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault and disarming a law enforcement officer — stemmed from an early morning traffic stop the same day.

Sequim Police Officer Daniel Martinez stopped Kenney at 4:31 a.m. at the Third Avenue/Washington Street intersection where Kenney tackled Martinez, and the two wrestled for Martinez’s gun, which discharged.

Citizens and Clallam County sheriff’s deputies helped detain Kenney, who has four prior cases of assault on police officers, according to court documents.

With Kenney found incompetent, Basden agreed to dismiss the charges without prejudice on June 7, allowing prosecutors the possibility to refile charges if Kenney is deemed competent. He also requested a civil commitment evaluation to gauge if Kenney could be committed to the hospital.

Kenney had been admitted to Western State four times previously after criminal charges, according to court documents, and last restored to competency for trial in 2017.

He’s also been diagnosed with schizophrenia, stimulant use disorder and alcohol use disorder, court documents said.

According to Clallam County Jail’s inmate roster, Kenney was released on June 7, the same day his charges were dismissed without prejudice.

However, he appeared via video for his court appearance that day from Western State Hospital, where he had been receiving treatment for restoration for about six months.

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.

Kenney’s appointed defense attorney, John Hayden, said in an interview it’s possible Kenney could remain indefinitely in a hospital if civilly committed.

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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 mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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