State hospital won’t have room for Daniel Butts for several weeks

Daniel Butts

Daniel Butts

From the, February 18, 2011

It could be mid-March before the Kalama man accused of murdering Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter is sent to a state hospital for a mental evaluation, officials said Friday.

Daniel Armaugh Butts, 21, is being held in the Columbia County Jail awaiting transfer to the Oregon State Hospital in Salem. The order to transfer Butts for a mental evaluation was signed by Circuit Court Judge Ted Grove on Feb. 11.

Butt’s lawyers said at the time he needed immediate treatment for what they called a mental breakdown. The court order was to transfer Butts as soon as possible.

Officials at the hospital have advised jail officials that they don’t have room for Butts just yet, Columbia County Jeff Dickerson said Friday.

The hospital didn’t have an exact date, but officials there told jail officials they “envisioned the middle of March as when they’d have room,” Dickerson said.

Once at the hospital, the evaluation could take up to 30 days, according to Columbia County District Attorney Steve Atchison. Butts’ arraignment and trial on 24 charges — including aggravated murder — are on hold pending the outcome of the exam. A Jan. 26 arraignment had to be called off after Butts interrupted the reading of the charges, disagreed with his lawyers and complained jail guards were making too much noise.

Defense lawyers have declined to speak with the press about the case or their client.

The exam ordered for Butts will evaluate only whether he is stable enough to assist with his defense as his lawyers prepare for trial. It is not a determination about his mental state during the Jan. 5 shooting or whether he’s responsible for his alleged actions.

His lawyers, in court papers, say doctors have found that Butts is hearing voices and is likely bipolar and experiencing a mental break. The evaluation — done by state doctors — is to see if the alleged mental problems are inhibiting Butts’ ability to work with his lawyers.

If he is found to be mentally impaired, Butts would be treated in the state’s forensic psychiatric services unit until he is fit to go to trial and then would be returned to Columbia County to face the charges.

Butts is charged with killing Painter, 55, Jan. 5 after the chief responded to a report of a suspicious person outside a West Rainier car stereo shop. According to grand jury indictment, Butts assaulted Painter, took his pistol and shot him in the head.

Butts also is accused of firing at other police officers as they responded to the scene and of shooting at a nearby church before he was shot and taken into custody. A bullet remains in Butts’ back, and he’s receiving medical treatment in jail.