PORT ANGELES — Benjamin George Bonner has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity for the beating death of a 71-year-old Sequim woman.
Bonner, 18, of Bainbridge Island, will be evaluated for the insanity defense by a state psychologist, Clallam County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin said Friday.
A review hearing was scheduled for Feb. 2.
Bonner is charged for the murder of Cynthia Little, a family friend who was described in court documents as a grandmother figure to the teen.
The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office alleged that Bonner bludgeoned Little to death with a fireplace poker as Little repeatedly said “I love you.”
Bonner allegedly used the same instrument to kill Little’s pet dog and drove Little’s car from her Sunland residence to his home on Bainbridge Island.
At his arraignment Friday, Bonner pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and first-degree animal cruelty.
Bonner could still go to trial if it is determined that he was insane at the time of the murder, Devlin said in a Friday interview.
Little was murdered one day after Bonner was released from a mental health treatment facility for threatening his mother and harming a cat, according to the affidavit for probable cause.
Bonner had an adjustment to his anti-psychotic medication four days before Little’s death, court papers said.
A mental health assessment performed last August found that Bonner met diagnostic criteria for unspecified schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorder and had a history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The initial assessment at Western State Hospital found that Bonner was not competent to stand trial.
Bonner was ordered to take medication to restore his competency. He was re-evaluated after weeks of taking the anti-psychotic drug olanzapine.
An Oct. 27 report from Western State concluded that a medicated Bonner has the ability to understand the charges against him and to assist in his own defense.
Bonner allegedly apologized for the murder in a Nov. 27 letter to the court.
“I’m truly sorry and in pain over what happened,” Bonner wrote.
Bonner is being held in the Clallam County jail on $1.5 million bail.
Rob Ollikainen is a reporter for the Peninsula Daily News. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at email@example.com.