November marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Joe LaMagno in a brutal, random attack on the sidewalk along E Union. The Seattle Times reports that the man police captured in a nearby alley minutes after the hatchet murder has been returned to Western State Hospital in an effort to restore his mental competency so he can stand trial for the two murders he is accused of committing:
Michael LaRosa had long been struggling with mental illnesses, according to his family, when he allegedly attacked Joseph LaMagno, 58, and Dale Richard Holme, 64, in November 2010. The attacks were unprovoked, according to King County prosecutors.
Since his arrest in an alley just steps from where LaMagno was killed, LaRosa’s mental competency has been in question.
In December, the 27-year-old man was evaluated at Western State Hospital and deemed competent to stand trial. Late last month, King County Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler deemed him incompetent and ordered him returned to Western State for 90 days so doctors there can try to help him regain mental competency, according to court filings. more…
According to police and medical reports, LaRosa was off his medications at the time of the 2010 attacks and was also severely dehydrated after not been eating or drinking for fear that his food and drinks had been poisoned. The effort to stabilize his mental illness in order for the legal process in the cases to proceed has been going on throughout his incarceration. CHS reported on early efforts here in spring 2011. According to court records, LaRosa reported being physically and sexually abused as a child and said his stepfather had later committed suicide. Reports also document a significant history of drug use. Doctors at the time found LaRosa “has the capacity to understand his legal situation and communicate effectively with counsel in his own defense.”
But the latest report indicates the accused killer is not currently capable of participating in a trial:
“With regards to competency, Mr. LaRosa is presently too distracted, distressed and internally preoccupied by his psychotic symptoms to be able to either understand his legal situation or to work with his attorney in his own defense,” the latest report from Western concludes.
LaRosa’s restoration, should doctors and the court agree that he is ever fit to stand trial, is the second major Capitol Hill murder case to hinge on mental competency. In spring of 2009, James Williams finally pleaded guilty after Western treatment was deemed to have made him competent to stand trial in the 2007 slaying of Capitol Hill resident Shannon Harps. The then-50-year-old was sentenced to 35 years for the slaying. Meanwhile, Louis Chenalso spent time at Western to restore his competency to stand trial in the slaying of his young son and partner in a First Hill apartment.
LaRosa will remain at Western for three more months of treatment before another court appearance scheduled for July.
This story was originally published on our sister site Capitol Hill Seattle.