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suspect to face charges

Roy Franco, who shot himself in the face after allegedly chasing down and fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend at Lattin’s Country Cider Mill in September, is still recovering from his injuries at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

A prosecutor said Friday that she’s waiting for Franco to recover so he can appear in court to face a first-degree murder charge in connection with the shooting death of Kay Langford with a sawed-off shotgun on Sept. 24. He’s also charged with first-degree assault for allegedly pointing the shotgun at the woman who dropped Langford off for work that morning.

Thurston County senior deputy prosecuting attorney Jodilyn Erikson-Muldrew has obtained an order stating that when Franco is medically discharged, he will be transported to jail and held there until his preliminary hearing the next business day. Franco, 54, has been formally charged in Thurston County Superior Court.

The sheriff’s office awaits word on whether Harborview will bill Thurston County for Franco’s medical care. Chief criminal deputy James Chamberlain said it was his understanding that Franco’s medical bills already total more than “several hundred thousand dollars.” He said he did not want to give an exact number for fear of violating federal law concerning the privacy of patients’ medical information.

Franco was placed in custody when he was arrested shortly before Airlift Northwest transported him by helicopter to Harborview after the shooting. According to court records, Franco no longer was in custody once Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor signed conditions of release Sept. 30 requiring Franco not to leave Harborview.

“We believe that if we were billed, we would only be liable for the time that he was in custody,” Chamberlain said.

He added that he thinks Franco’s medical insurance might cover some of his bills.

Chamberlain said Franco is not a flight risk because he is unable care for himself or leave the hospital.

It remains to be seen whether any mental disability from Franco’s gunshot wound will prevent him from being deemed competent to stand trial.

Under state law, incompetency “means that a person lacks the capacity to understand the nature of the proceedings against him or her or to assist in his or her own defense as a result of mental disease or defect.” State law also requires that “no incompetent person shall be tried, convicted or sentenced for the commission of an offense so long as such incapacity continues.”

A FAMILIAR ISSUE

Health care providers billing local governments for defendants’ medical treatment while in custody is an ongoing issue, and the costs can be huge, Chamberlain said.

In 2007, Thurston County was billed more than $208,000 for medical care of defendants or suspects who were in custody, and in 2008, the county was billed more than $171,000, he said.

“It becomes very expensive, and those resources have to come from someplace,” Chamberlain said. “It puts a very harsh strain on the criminal-justice system.”

Several years ago, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services discontinued a program that provided some funding for indigent patients – not just jail inmates – who required medical care for traumatic injuries, said Cassie Sauer, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Hospital Association.

An official at Harborview said Franco was listed in satisfactory condition Friday.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465

jpawloski@theolympian.com

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