Psychiatric hospital patient accused of fatally strangling roommate

A Western State Hospital patient suspected of fatally strangling his roommate has been charged with murder, Pierce County prosecutors said.

Jason Day, 51, is accused of killing his roommate at the adult psychiatric hospital, one of two such state-run facilities in Washington. He will undergo a competency evaluation to determine whether he’s fit to stand trial.

No problems were documented between Day and his roommate during the three months they lived together in Building 21, where bedrooms and recreation areas remain unlocked, according to court documents, which don’t identify the 69-year-old man who was killed.

Day’s most recent psychiatric evaluation, however, noted he had assaulted other patients because of his increased feelings of paranoia and feeling unable to control his anger. He told a hospital staff member he assaulted his roommate because the man had threatened him, documents say.

A ward nurse told Lakewood police that Day walked up to her Oct. 28 and told her his roommate was dead, according to court documents. She and a security staffer found the roommate badly hurt, and he later died at a hospital.

The man who was killed had lived at Western State since 1989, arriving under a charge of first-degree murder, according to a spokesperson for Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services.

Day was admitted to Western State in 2014 after assaulting another patient at a different psychiatric facility, according to court documents.

Both men were found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Day is being held without bail at the Pierce County Jail and is awaiting his competency evaluation.

Western State has over 800 beds for patients who are involuntarily committed because of psychiatric disorders and criminal defendants whose competency is in question.

The hospital lost $53 million in federal funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services after years of failing inspections prompting state leaders to respond.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan to “re-imagine” the state’s mental health system includes splitting Western State into two sections and cutting down the number of civil beds.

But competing interests and rising costs magnify the difficulties of that plan. Lakewood officials have pushed back against the state, saying their city has been chosen for behavioral health facilities sites without their input.

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