Trial set after competency restored

Olympia woman accused of attacking, killing a fellow resident at Martin Way apartments

jpawloski@theolympian.comMay 24, 2013 

Doctors at Western State Hospital have restored the competency of an Olympia woman accused of murdering a 76-year-old woman who was working on a jigsaw puzzle.

A judge also set a new trial date for the defendant during a court hearing Thursday.

Corrin Kaufman, 46, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder with aggravating circumstances in connection with Chasu White’s Oct. 26 homicide at the Casa Madrona Apartments in the 3900 block of Martin Way. According to court papers, Kaufman exhibited “inhuman strength” when she beat White into unconsciousness in a common area at the housing complex.

Kaufman’s attorney, Karl Hack, said in court Thursday that he intends to pursue a “diminished capacity defense,” or a defense that would ask the court to deem Kaufman not guilty by reason of insanity.

In February, doctors at Western State decided Kaufman was “incompetent,” meaning that she was unable to understand the criminal proceedings against her or assist in her own defense. Doctors at Western State subsequently placed her in a mentally ill offender unit for competency restoration, which typically involves administering medications.

On Thursday, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon reviewed Western State’s confidential report on Kaufman’s mental health, and signed an order stating that Kaufman’s competency had been restored. Kaufman was being held Thursday at the Thurston County Jail with bail set at $1 million.

A prosecutor has said in court that White’s homicide was an “extremely brutal and violent attack that appears to be completely unprovoked.” Residents of the apartment complex have said that Kaufman was behaving erratically in the minutes before the fatal assault on White and was running up and down the halls of the apartment complex naked and banging on doors, yelling “let me in, let me in.”

Olympia police found evidence in Kaufman’s former apartment indicating she had used narcotics before the attack.

Casa Madrona Apartments provides long-term subsidized housing to the elderly and the disabled. The Olympia complex is managed by the King County Housing Authority. Casa Madrona is a type of federally subsidized housing that by definition allows the disabled and the elderly to live in the same building, according to a spokeswoman for the King County Housing Authority. By law, the housing authority is not allowed to request information about what type of disability an applicant for housing there might have — including whether a disability is physical or mental.

Dixon tentatively scheduled Kaufman’s trial date for Sept. 23. Hack said during the hearing that he will need that time to have experts evaluate Kaufman’s mental status. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Skinder said he, too, will need to have his own team of experts evaluate Kaufman.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445

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